Tag Archives: horror

review – cardanica

Reading Dario Tonani’s Cardanica has been a pleasantly unsettling experience. This novella is a perfect choice for those wishing for a greater daily dosage of pulpy gore in their literary diet, especially if read in the claustrophobic confines of an airport or plane.

It’s the story of a cargo ship’s crew inching through a harsh and remote desert world with little to control save their own psyches. Not much is known of their purpose except their eventual progression across the uneven sands, powered by a lumbering mechanical caterpillar of a vessel.  Conjoined with the vehicle is a semi-sentient, self-sustaining and incessantly oiled “pneumoarc”, the driving force behind an inevitable and undesirable turn of events.

Cardanica is a meaty however brief story containing a good mix of sci-fi, horror, and steampunk imaginings. It’s definitely more than a work of simple shock value; rather, the story is a well-conceived peep into a dissolution of desperate events facing an unequipped crew. While leaving a fair amount of questions at its conclusion, the work justifies further exposition, perhaps best as a graphic novel, requiring a greater sense of closure. It’s hard not to think of Cardanica as an overly oozing, anachronistic offshoot of Kubrick-inspired space drama, but is there anything wrong with that?

the horror…

Just finished At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft.  Fascinating, no dialogue whatsoever.  A good book to cleanse one’s reading palate, though I admire Lovecraft’s gift for vivid description.


dogReading Dogwalker, a bizarre collection of stories by Arthur Bradford is well worth the short time it takes to transform the mundane into the weirdness we so crave for amusement. All of the stories contained within revolve around Bradford’s attempts in finding some solace from one’s self-imposed boredom and stagnation through stray canines and equally stray roommates. If it means anything, this collection takes place throughout Texas; apparently, there is a lot of weird down there.

Bradford writes with childlike simplicity and whimsy, though his plots border on the uber-strange and even the horrific. Cat-faced carnies, fruit sculpting with chainsaws, blind friends who own cars, and the glamour of giant slugs are just some of the musings Bradford could expound on in greater detail; stories I’d happily delve into when in need of a fresh bizarro-cleanse.  Yet he tends to focus on dogs and roommates, and the fleeting affection he has for both.  By whatever circumstance, both tend to be maimed, mutated or psychologically unhinged, yet that doesn’t stop him from adopting each for a brief laugh to pass the time.

What is surprising about this collection of stories is the degree of openness or ambivalence set forth by  Bradford.  While he languidly chooses his own adventure in each, the degree of tension that rises in most of the stories is soon enough offset by a delicate weirdness that prevents real malice from taking over and sending the reader dashing to the nearest bottle of Pepto. Hence, a slight hint of unsettling will envelop the reader, which is exactly what a good collection of short stories is supposed to do.  It was a very quick read and stories like Mollusks, The House of Alan Matthews, Bill McQuill, Chainsaw Apple and Roslyn’s Dog tend to linger in my mind, to the extent that I hope Bradford will publish more.


So for no other reason than jotting some ideas down and killing some time, I’d thought I write a review of a book I read some months ago, The Ruins by Scott Smith.  It’s quite a popular piece of work, judging by the fact that it has recently been made into a movie which I haven’t seen nor will choose to, as I felt it would be too easily butchered by those in Hollywood who would just as easily turn an intriguing psychological work of horror into one of those campy, contrived third-rate productions one would watch on the Sci-Fi channel Saturday morning while working out the kinks from a heavy night of boozing.  You know the plot…group of intrepid, young, and virile post-adolescents take a trip to some cabin or remote wooded destination, start to get their groove on, so to speak, until they are disrupted by some awful mutated mecha-gecko content to play with their emotions just before it picks off the group one by one in a glorified gorefest.

That’s how close The Ruins can be modified into the above scenario.  Thankfully, Smith does a pretty good job of making this story semi-believable, at least in terms of the human element.  First and foremost, this is a horror story, set in an increasingly popular location for writers and directors alike, namely Central America (Mexico, specifically).  Under the best of intentions, as well as a desire to adventure before their days of careerdom begin, our naive group of turistas soon find themselves in the jungle gradually wondering why it is they decided to do this thing they are doing.

Yes, there is a little bit of gore, but not in the way one would come to expect from such a tried storyline, and without a whole lot of action.  The most captivating aspect of this story is the gradual decline of any positive outcome for the group (something which the members gradually come to realize), magnified by the similar psychological effect on each member.  A sense of primal desperation is the underpinning force, guiding action vs. ethic in a moment-by-moment excruciating pace in which turning back is never an option.

My major problem with the work is the introduction of a particular plant that aids in the decline.  A little disappointing, really, because I thought it was unnecessary and a little overboard.  The more realistic option for me would have been to concentrate on the local village folk, whom Smith deliberately understates and therefore mystifies.  It’s a similar device to Cormac McCarthy’s sparse use of language, character depth, and exposition of cause and effect; apart from the main characters, their silent behavior is more horrifying than the obvious villain.

I enjoyed the book.  It is an elaborate step-by-step progression of bad choices and the consequent regret, neuroses, and paranoia derived from them.