Monday, October 13, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Weird Tales July/August 2008 Issue

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

There's a lot to unpack when it comes to Weird Tales, especially considering this is the first time ever I'm actually reading a copy.

Design-wise, I like it. Nothing that particularly strikes out but it serves its purpose. The text is easy to read and there's minimal effort required on the reader. The few times it does require the reader to refer to a different page, it's usually just a spread away.

Much like the design, I find the art to be in the same boat. It's above average but nothing that jumps out right at me, save perhaps for the colored cover. I also enjoyed the faux ad of "Assorted Anatomy..." as the illustrations hide a lot of text and details that many readers would appreciate.

The nonfiction is quite interesting and caught my attention. Elizabeth Genco's interview with Mike Mignola was one of the features that I first read and it didn't disappoint. However, what really drew me in was Darrel Schweitzer's "People: It's What's for Dinner" as he talks--and debunks--the myth of Sawney Bean. As a foreigner, I'm not really aware of Sawney Bean but Scheweitzer catches me up to speed, reels me in, then dumps everything all in one go. Not bad for a three-and-a-half nonfiction piece. Another commendable piece would have to be Eric San Juan's "Whispers of the Old Hag" as he talks about a real-life condition that can be as terrifying as any horror story. The reviews and curious featured in the rest of the magazine were likewise good reads.

As for the poetry and fiction, they were all quick and easy. They were for the most part enjoyable--"fun" and "exciting" probably being the keywords here--although they're not necessarily stories that push me to the edge of "weird" yet. Still, here are my top three stories in the magazine: "All In" by Peter Atwood is simple and straight to the point but Atwood manages to turn a conventional Poker game into something uncomfortable at the end. The ending still seems a bit restrained but overall it captures that high-stakes feel. I really, really enjoyed "The Stone-Hearted Queen" by Kelly Barnhill. This is my high fantasy appreciation kicking in but Barnhill sets herself apart thanks to her characterization and her language. "The Difficulties of Evolution" by Karen Heuler is a competent attempt at internal and external horror and rises to being slightly-above mediocre. The magazine also reprints the first chapter to Stephen Hunt's novel, The Court of Air, and I think this excerpt is a perfect it for the magazine. It ends at just the right point, featuring the right elements of fantasy, weirdness, and horror.

Overall this was a fun read that piqued my interest all throughout. The level of writing is quite consistent, with no sudden spikes in the quality (either for or against it). It's certainly above average and while I thoroughly enjoyed "The Stone-Hearted Queen", I'm still waiting for the coup de grace when it comes to the fiction.

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