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I Am Providence

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My reading tastes might be described as eclectic but I must confess that I’m pitiably deficient in horror. I do read mysteries and grabbed Nick Mamatas’s I Am Providence when he offered me the ARC to read and review. It turns out the actual mystery plays second to the social predisposition of the group that makes the murder possible. The story is about pulp fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft and his oddball group of contemporary fans: obsessive, insecure, small-minded, and generally weird. It’s told with a droll wit, biting at times, and often laugh-out-loud funny. I remember some of these characters from the last fan conference I attended!

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Alternating chapters, Mamatas tells the story in two points of view. Panossian, the victim, muses on his life, his writing, and H.P. Lovecraft, delivering insight into the Lovecraftian world and his own nature. Panossian’s observations on writers, fans and conferences had me either hooting or feeling a little sick when they hit too close.

 

A narrator chronicles the action from the point of view of Colleen Danzig, the recently acclaimed horror writer, who isn’t “exactly nervous” to attend her first Summer Tentactular, the annual Lovecraft convention held in Lovecraft’s hometown, Providence, Rhode Island. Colleen isn’t sure what to expect, but finds the other writers in the bar, recognizable by the way they “clutched at their drinks with a special sort of desperation. . .” and meets the eccentric group including Panossian, who she’s rooming with during the con. He’s the author of a literary mash-up, which has insinuated him into the fringes of the Lovecraftian community.

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Colleen attends the opening ceremonies, the private themed parties and the midnight visit to Lovecraft’s grave, “A veritable ‘who’s that?’ of horror fiction.” Back at the room Panossian shows her a book, Arkham, bound with the author’s skin. That’s the last Colleen sees of him until she identifies his body at the morgue, his face flayed of skin.

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It’s gruesome but worse, none of the other convention goers care. Other than a bunch of police poking about, the Summer Tentacular continues unabated—even when the next victim is found in the forest where the gang has gone to see if they can discover the burial site of Lovecraft’s cat.

 

No one is allowed to leave the hotel and most of the con-goers are questioned. Colleen is compelled to solve the murder despite that two of the inner circle have been taken into custody. Her investigation may end badly.

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From his drawer at the morgue, Panossian narrates, except he’s in the dark regarding who killed him. He’s alarmed: He hears what’s going on yet can’t speak or move. He’s ready for oblivion. He thought reading Lovecraft would have prepared him for it. “If fiction is a way of inducing an organism to remember experiences it never had, then reading Lovecraft is crucial for understanding the futility of life and the screaming horror of death. . .” He spends a lot of time with unraveling thoughts about Colleen, his relationship to the Lovecraftians and Lovecraft’s work.

 

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H.P. Lovecraft

By the end of the book, Mamatas has spun a new Lovecraft story. I Am Providence is dark and disturbing enough to make Lovecraft proud, but it is also a tongue in cheek romp into a zany subculture. Mamatas’s erudition in the world of Lovecraft shines with his cultivated vocabulary and edgy syntax. I plain enjoyed how his thoughts flowed across the tentacled pages, and have come away with knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft and his work. Did you know in 2005 he was awarded the status of classic American writer with the publication of Tales, a collection of his weird fiction stories?

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If you’re like me and can’t pronounce Cthulhu, don’t worry! I Am Providence is accessible to anyone who loves a thought provoking read, a good laugh, and a look into another world. Oh, and the mystery is great—you won’t see the killer coming. (Hint: it isn’t one of the Elder Gods.)

 Congratulations to Nick Mamatas—I Am Providence has published today!

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Nick Mamatas just might be the new Providence.

Nick Mamatas is the author of six and a half novels, including The Last Weekend (PS Publishing), Love is the Law (Dark Horse), The Damned Highway with Brian Keene (Dark Horse), Bullettime (CZP), Sensation (PM Press), Under My Roof (Counterpoint/Soft Skull), and Move Under Ground (Night Shade/Prime). His latest collection is The Nickronomicon, from Innsmouth Free Press. His novels have been translated into German, Italian, and Greek. Nick is also an anthologist and editor of short fiction: with Masumi Washington he co-edited the Locus Award-nominated The Future Is Japanese (Haikasoru), and with Ellen Datlow he co-edited the Bram Stoker Award-winning Haunted Legends (Tor Books). Nick’s own short fiction has appeared in genre publications such as Asimov’s Science Fiction and Tor.com, lit journals including New Haven Review and subTERRAIN, and anthologies such as Hint Fiction and Best American Mystery Stories 2013. His fiction and editorial work has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award five times, the Hugo Award twice, the World Fantasy Award twice, and the Shirley Jackson, International Horror Guild, and Locus Awards. His writing guide Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life (Apex Publications) has been excerpted in The Writer, and he has also published two joke/reference books: Insults Every Man Should Know and Quotes Every Man Should Know (Quirk Books).
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Turn to the Sun

5121eFu6ZuL._AA160_-1JC Miller’s latest novel, Heliotrope, has been called “a coming of age story for the ages.” And it’s more than that. Heliotrope is a story about finding one’s path in a complicated world and finding peace in one’s own skin. It’s about finding a place we belong.

For Kit Hilliard, home is a place to escape. She goes as far from the dusty, brown desert town of her shattered childhood as she can, to attend college in the lush green world of 1975 Arcata, California. “Kit’s vision filled with green, quenching the arid ground of her birthplace, softening the brittle places in her heart. Eager to reinvent her life and thirsty for uncharted ground, Kit opened up like a flower turning to light.” But on the cusp of her senior year and graduation, her world begins to shift.

Kit falls in love with her senior seminar professor, Jonathan Wakefield. But Jonathan, a best-selling author, is not who he appears to be. He is another escapee. “He’d actually believed a geographic adjustment could cure him, but now he realized his affliction was permanent.”

True to the spirit of the times the jug wine, marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms flow freely. After a dinner party goes awry, Kit flees to the comfort of her buddy, Milo, and makes a discovery that shocks her. Betrayed and embarrassed she lashes out in revenge.

Remembering her moral compass, Kit tries to make amends. Jonathan takes a hard look at his life and finds no loving net awaits him back home. With Kit’s graduation looming and Jonathan’s teaching contract coming to an end, the future is uncertain. They must recognize and embrace whom they are, both the beautiful and the ugly, and create the lives they yearn for.

As in all of JC Miller’s work, the writing is both straightforward and lyrical. Miller is adept with figurative language and can root into the deepest recesses of her characters for truth. She’s got her pen on the pulse of humanity. Her characters are likeable, real, and experience the full range of human emotions. The story unfolds naturally in a smooth, organic progression, leading the reader to a satisfying and hope filled conclusion.

Heliotrope is a book to think about. First, it takes place in my own era of “coming of age” and I often found myself reminiscing about my college days. I compared experiences with Kit and remembered my professor, Lenny. But mostly, Heliotrope made me think of the rocky paths we must tread to find a place to belong in a complex and ever-changing world. Heliotrope will resonate with anyone who has experienced the bruising of coming to terms with life and remembers the pain and joy of finding oneself at any age.

By the way, I absolutely couldn’t put the book down!

JC MILLER

At the launch of The To-Do List February 1, 2015

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