Nov. 17th, 2016

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52. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

This novella was recommended to me by Jonathan L Howard, author of the excellent Carter and Lovecraft.  It's basically a non-racist re-telling of The Horror at Red Hook.

The first half is the backstory of Black Tom (Charles Thomas Tester), a black man in 1920s Harlem who makes ends meet by doing what looks like low-level gangster jobs (acting as courier, etc) except that the trade is in occult objects, and his musings on how he's not going to allow himself to be broken by manual labour and racism like his father was.  This is the better half of the book.

The second half is from the point of view of one of the detectives hired by the family of the mysterious white dude who is buying up lots of slum property in Red Hook and this is where it becomes obvious this story is a re-imaging of Lovecraft's most infamously racist tale.  Although it is where most of the action lies, is less fulfilling because the character just isn't interesting.  However, the final battle and the outcome are very well done.

A quick read, and definitely worth your time.
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53. The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Another novella, the follow up to Cornell's novella from last year, The Witches of Lychford.

Where the first book was mostly humorous - about three women, who all in one way or another can tap in to something "other", trying to stop a supermarket setting up shop on the outskirts of their small town, because it will bring down the barrier between worlds - this one is dark and scary.

It starts with one of the women (a C of E vicar) seeing the ghost of a child who is very much alive and well and loved begging for help.  A prince of Faerie contacts the owner of the local magic shop to try to warn her that something is wrong.  From there on the reader can see perfectly well what is going on, but the characters can't.  We also find out the truth about Judith's husband and it's not comic, as we've been led to believe, it's pretty horrific.

I couldn't put this one down, it's simply wonderful.


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