November 01, 2003
The Halloween Man by Douglas Clegg

The Halloween Man by Douglas Clegg: another great novel by horror master Clegg dealing with devil worship in a small New England town.

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to Stony Crawford just as he’s kidnapped a small boy - a boy with amazing powers - from a compound of religious zealots in Texas. I was immediately prepared for Stony to be a bad guy and was surprised to find out that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

A large section of the novel is told in a flashback to the year that Stony was fifteen and in love with a beautiful girl, Lourdes Maria. During this flashback we learn who Stony truly is and why he had to kidnap the boy. Without giving too much away, the novel deals with “devil” worship, small town secrets, and the hidden nature of Stony.

I enjoyed this book a good deal, though for a while I wasn’t sure I knew where it was going. Luckily, the murky part of the plot cleared up and it was all the better for being a bit unclear. Clegg’s characters are very strong and the poignant way that he wrote about first love between Lourdes and Stony made me long to see them happy together.

At first I thought that I liked The Hour Before Dark (the last book I read by him) more, but the more I think about The Halloween Man, the more I like it and now I’m not sure that it might not be the better of the two. Highly recommended.

October 29, 2003
Swagbelly: A Novel for Today's Gentleman by David Levin

Swagbelly: A Novel for Today’s Gentleman by David Levin: a tale of a pornographer and the events and memories that make up his life.

Elliot Grubman is an extremely wealthy publisher of Swagbelly - a pornographic magazine who’s quality is below Playboy but above the crude, typical magazine that dominate the industry. Newly divorced, Elliot’s life is slowly falling apart despite the fact that he is worth over $100 million. He tries to put his life back together by dating models from his magazine, learning polo, and other measures, but what really is it that he needs and wants?

I find it hard to really describe this book. I guess it’s a “Day in the Life” kind of novel, even if that life does involve lots of money and models. It would be hard for most to like a man who uses women, intimidates people, and deals in the sex industry, but Elliot is a surprisingly rich character who I really liked. I wanted things to go well for him.

While the tale of an extremely rich pornographer may sound like an off-putting idea for a novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to see more of Levin’s work.

October 27, 2003
Cannibals of the fine Light by Simon Brown

Cannibals of the fine Light by Simon Brown: a short story collection from an Australian author that never quite lived up to its potential.

These stories, set in a not-to-distant future, almost all revolved around biochips planted in people’s brains and their relationships with other humans, machines and animals.

For the most part, I didn’t really enjoy too many of the stories. I wanted to know more about the time and place that they happened in. Kind of like with William Gibson’s Neuromancer, I felt that I was missing key elements as to why people did the things that they did. I just never really felt myself drawn into the story.

Saying that, however, I did enjoy a few of them. They were “The Mind’s Eye,” “The Final Machine,” “Brother Stripes,” “Rain From the New God,” and “The Truth in Advertising,” a clever little co-written piece that made reading the book worth it. Not really recommended, but fans of anthologies may find enough gems in here to make mining the book worth it.