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Book Reviews: Strange Stars & Alien Shadows + Fated

Strange Stars & Alien Shadows The Dark Fiction of Ann K. Schwader

This is a wonderful anthology of Lovecraft inspired fiction.

The Tulu Jar
A man displays his art at a convention. A jealous rival sabotages the star piece and pays a heavy price. This is good.

In a miserable future people live under domes. But resources are limited and there are those whose job it is to maintain the balance of population control. This is good.

In The Airlock
A mission to Pluto goes horribly wrong. This is a sequel to Lovecraft’s ‘The Whisperer in the Darkness’. This is good.

Body Of Work
A tattoo artist gets one tattoo too many. This was weird but okay.

A semi-sequel to ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’. The Deep Ones show up in a tourist resort. Only one cop thinks something strange is going on. This was good.

Fade Away
In the future, soldiers take part in yet another war. This is okay.

Twenty Mile
Cassie’s family ranch is being sold by her horrible cousin Phil. But the ranch has a dark secret. Phil won’t listen to the warnings but Cassie does. This is excellent.

Experiencing The Other
Two years have passed since the events in ‘Twenty Mile’. Cassie now runs the family ranch. She and a faithful ranch hand continue to keep whatever dwells beneath the ranch at bay. But tax demands means Cassie is forced to let occultists pay a visit. It does not go well. This is excellent.

Home Visitor
A new plague has an eerie effect on its victims. This is very good.

Old Glass
A man saves his sister from her vile son. This is very good and blackly funny.

The Gazing Globe
A woman is cursed by her ex-lover. This is okay.

Mail Order Bride
Friends order mail order brides and get far more than they expected. This is okay.

If He Calls
A woman has a stalker. This is okay.

The Matthias Critical Method
At a small college, rivalry is afoot in the English Lit department. Some advance their careers by unorthodox means. This is excellent.

Best Line:
“The man had more issues than a mediaeval plague victim.”

Tattered Souls
A shrink gets a difficult patient. This is okay.

Meeting Mr Marmalade
A psychic and a serial killer. Dull.

Objects From The Gilman-Waite Collection
A man visits a disturbing exhibition. Okay.

The Prince Of Perfect
A girl is urged to anorexia by an inhuman thing. This is very good.

Lost Stars
Sara’s friend brings her to what she thinks is a neo-pagan group. Sara discovers the group and its leader are unholy abominations. This is excellent.

Best Line:
“Some lost gods needed to stay lost.”

Fated by Benedict Jacka

The 1st ‘Alex Verus’ novel aka a UK ‘The Dresden Files’ knockoff set in Camden. This has poor woobie Alex and his harem of irrational women dealing with his Dark Mage past via exposition dumps, idiot plot twists, a plot that bears a passing resemblance to plots from other books and idiot character names in uninteresting fashion. When I read the scene where a bad man named Morden asks: “What do you want?”, I sighed. That’s a rip off of a classic season 1 ‘Babylon 5’ moment. This is just not good.
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