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Weird Horror Tales (Volume 1) Paperback – April 23, 2013
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First off let me give some background, this is a rewrite of a previous negative review of which I was highly criticized by other reviewers. Admittedly that review was harsh and rushed, omitting details that would have explained my criticism. Here I will attempt to expand the reasoning behind my negative position on this book.
First, I will note that I had serious issues with the production of this book as letters, words, sentences and even whole paragraphs were missing from every story. The publisher denies this but another reviewer complains about the same thing. I tried to resolve this issue by contacting the publisher, but sadly received no responses to three emails. I was forced to go invoke Amazon's return policy for missing parts and ship the item back.
Now printing issues are not the fault of the author, but they are the responsibility of the publisher, and buyers should be aware that the edition in question may have flaws. Keep in mind I am not talking about grammatical issues here, I am specifically talking about large portions of missing text which is the primary component of the book. As this is the first edition of this book by a small press, some may be inclined to belittle the issue, to do so is a sad commentary on the state of quality production and speaks volumes about what the public is willing to accept as a quality product. Imagine if a new edition of Dune accidentally left out a paragraph or two, the uproar would be tremendous.
Besides the production issues, I also have an issue with how this book is marketed. Supposedly thirteen harrowing stories in the Lovecraft tradition I would dare the publisher to defend this statement. Another reviewer states that Vance's "Lovecraftian style features patiently built suspense rich in setting and character, usually with short vivid climaxes and resolutions." Yet at the same time the reviewer tell us that he is distinct from Lovecraft by controlling the verbosity of his prose, while focusing on the dark horrors of the human heart with an "overall Christian worldview, which gives horror and moral choices, context."
Here then I think is a serious misunderstanding. If the subject matter is not Lovecraftian (by no stretch was Lovecraft writing in a Christian worldview), and the use of language is not Lovecraftian, all we are left with is a style "rich in setting and character". While I am a fan of Lovecraft's work, it is generally accepted that Lovecraft routinely failed to develop characters and settings, focusing instead on mood.
Another reviewer (who professes to be the publisher) has commented that Vance's work is Lovecraftian in that it deals with the theme of "the sins of the father". Try as I might I can find no good example of this theme in Lovecraft's work. The stories "The Rats in the Walls" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" may have been misread as dealing with this theme but that is a stretch of literary critical license that I cannot support. As a pre-emptive response I would suggest that "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" do not fit into dealing with the theme of "sins of the fathers" but the truth is the subjects of these stories are never "punished" for their ancestral dealings with monstrous forces, indeed by the tale's end the narrator of `The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is celebrating his transformation.
This then is why I stand by my original review and state again that it is clear from the outset that these tales are not Lovecraftian and draw on the worst and most puerile definitions of Christian sin. Michael Vance's attempts to suspend disbelief and create tension and fear fail, invoking instead disbelief that these so called stories could be foisted on an unsuspecting and misled public.
The award-winning Vance does not write in the Cthulhu Mythos itself, but his Lovecraftian style features patiently built suspense rich in setting and character, usually with short vivid climaxes and resolutions. Properly written, the effect puts a reader into the story, with page flipping curiosity.
Vance paints portraits of fated personalities in an eerie little town on Maine's northern Atlantic coast. Light's End can also be found on brink of madness. Deep spiritual influences and events, guilty evils, and ancient lore are scrimshawed into memorable tales centered on the moral implications and consequences of personal actions.
Vance's voice is distinct from Lovecraft's on several points. Horrors of the dark human heart, rather than horrific alien mysteries, are the center of each work. Readers are snatched from madness' edge by an overall Christian worldview, which gives horror, and moral choices, context.
Weird Horror Tales' thirteen short stories, and a few non-short story treats, showcase a Lovecraftian sins-of-the-fathers theme. The collection is what's known as a braided novel. The tales, all in and around Light's End, are set chronologically from the early twentieth century, to present day and near future. Common threads of symbol and prophecy progress through the stories. Any of the stories could be enjoyed individually, but read sequentially, there's a bigger tale.
Vance's fiction does not cower from language and subjects that most Christian publishers avoid. Vance uses dark imagery and language in a tasteful and literary sense. Pre-teens would see examples of good literature, but graphic content is appropriate for high school and older maturity levels
Sadly, Vance's literary level may be too high. I fear readers won't like Random Pairings: a literary dialog, boldly written without quotation marks, with one of the most dramatic endings in the braided novel.
Overall, Weird Horror Tales is a must-read for genre fans, especially those who of the Christian worldview. Note that one tale, The Lighter Side, should be saved for a reader's zany reading mood. When you want something fun, the humor in this piece rivals Douglas Adams and Stephen Leon Rice.
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