Posts Tagged ‘Mike Thorn’

BOOK INFO

Length: 254 Pages

Publisher: Unnerving

Release Date: November 21, 2017

One of the best things about running a blog dedicated to horror fiction – and hell, just being a reader in general – is discovering new writers. One of the best and most rewarding feelings as a horror fan is reading a new author’s work and being blown away by their talent and the awe of discovering something cool. That is the exact feeling I got when I first sat down to crack open Mike Thorn’s debut story collection, Darkest Hours. I may have been a newcomer to Mike’s fiction, but I have long admired his “Thorn’s Thoughts” feature for Unnerving Magazine. So, when Mike reached out and asked me to check out Darkest Hours, I jumped at the chance.

Thorn’s Darkest Hours is a collection is a collection of 16 stories that run the gamut of the various horror sub-genres from bizarro to splatterpunk and everything in between. Just a few of the things you will find in Darkest Hours is alternate dimensions, deadly cults, ghosts, manipulations of reality, human monsters and so much more. I don’t want to spoil the unique journey Thorn has in store for readers with Darkest Hours, so rather than pinpoint every story, I selected some of my favorites.

“Mictian Diabolus” is one of the first stories in Darkest Hours and the one that really grabbed me and let me know I was in for one hell of a ride. A group of college-aged friends are enjoying their weekend partying and they decide to break into an old school that has a sinister past and urban legends surrounding it. Most of the group is excited and try to scare each other recounting spooky stories about “The Peeler”, the school’s old principal who was convicted of being a serial killer and committing horrible atrocities on students. but it doesn’t take long for them to realize that there is something very, very wrong with the school. “Mictian Diabolus” is a gore-soaked fright-fest that contains inspiration from 80’s style slasher movies with a dash of cosmic horror. Not only does Thorn come up with some seriously frightening scenes, I also love the atmosphere he crafts with this story, using the darkness and silence of the abandoned school to create a sense of tension and dread that doesn’t let up until the story is over. There are a lot of stories in Darkest Hours that were in the running for my favorite of the collection, but I have to go with my initial reaction of “Mictian Diabolus” being my personal favorite.

“The Auteur” – This story focuses on Cate and Simon. Cate is a woman who is filled with an encyclopedic knowledge of horror films who is constantly pushing Simon to stretch his boundaries and check out new films. While he loves her recommendations of classic horror films, but what he really wants to watch is the movies she has been working on. Cate says he isn’t ready, but Simon is persistent and eventually wears her down, getting her to agree to show him one of her films. However, Simon could never have imagined his request would have dangerous repercussions.

I have a feeling this story will resonate with a lot of horror fans who long for the nostalgia of VHS stores and the sort of conversations that would lead to some awesome discoveries. I also love the dynamic of Cate and Simon’s relationship, which is strictly platonic. It would have been easy to have Simon pine after Cate, but instead, their relationship is driven by their mutual love of all things horror. I also love the build-up in this story. I don’t want to spoil the contents of Cate’s film, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the reveal that Thorn unleashes. The scenes in Cate’s movies are wildly imaginative and chilling, slowly sneaking under your skin, just like they did to Simon. I also like how this is a very extreme example of the joy of watching horror films. Have you ever had that one movie that just scared the hell out of you or unsettled you to your core, and yet you couldn’t wait to watch another one? That’s the sort of tone this story carries. If you enjoyed J Daniel Stone’s brilliant “Vision II” from I Can Taste the Blood, you’ll definitely dig this story.

“Long Man” is an interesting story of a man who was haunted by this terrifying entity who lived in his mirror for most of his childhood on a fairly regular basis. The first sighting was when he was around six-years-old and the sightings began to occur like clockwork. Unable to sleep, the character’s life began to slowly descend into shambles. He tries telling his parents, who try to put his mind at ease at first, but eventually they think his obsession with the “Long Man” has gone too far. As an adult, he gathers the courage to tell his friend about his vision and that is when he makes a startling discovery – maybe the “Long Man” isn’t just a figment of his imagination. What I loved about this story was the unique slant on childhood fears and how those fears potentially translate into adulthood. I’m sure most of us had recurring nightmares as kids and imaginary monsters that frightened the living hell out of us before leaving them behind as we got older. What if these monsters were real? If they are real, where do they go once we have forgotten them? This story explores those questions with chilling results.

I also enjoyed the Fight Club-esque “Economy These Days”, the terrifying creature feature style tale “Fusion” and Thorn’s unique spin on the ghost story “Remembering Absence”. Thorn’s writing is excellent from beginning to end, but there were a few stories that didn’t quite work for me. One of those is the gross-out story “Hair”, which leads off the collection. “Hair” is the tale of Theodore, a manager of a metal T-shirt shop who has a very peculiar fetish that he does his best to keep secret. Throughout the story, Theodore’s obsession escalates until he reaches a point of no return. “Hair” is very effective in that it makes the reader squirm and has some very cool body horror scenes, but ultimately, it didn’t leave as much of an impression as some of the other stories in the collection. I had a similar experience with “Mired”, where Randolph discovers a strange blob in the storage area where he keeps all of his research and books. Like “Hair” I didn’t have any issue with the writing, the story just didn’t really fit my tastes.

The stories in Darkest Hours are outstanding, but I also feel like I should mention the awesome design work that Unnerving put together for this collection. While reading through Darkest Hours, it’s impossible not to notice the love and enthusiasm Thorn has for the horror genre whether it be films or books. That is wonderfully represented in Darkest Hours cover art, which is designed to look like a battered VHS tape from a store called”Verne’s Video”. I can’t stress enough how much I love this callback to the glory days of horror when discovery of movies and novels was passed down from one fan to another or through endlessly browsing shelves and snatching up whatever looked interesting. Sure, that still occurs to some degree, but it doesn’t quite feel the same. All I know is I definitely need to grab a physical copy!

Reading Thorn’s Darkest Hours was a real treat and considering the variety of styles on display, there is sure to be something for all horror fans in this collection. Thorn is an exciting new talent in the genre and I highly recommend grabbing a copy of Darkest Hours. I know I’m a fan and whether it’s more short stories, a novella or a novel, I can’t wait to see what Thorn comes up with next!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Mike Thorn’s Official Website

Unnerving Magazine’s Official Website

Purchase Darkest Hours: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About Mike Thorn

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. He completed his B.A. with honors at Mount Royal University and his M.A. in English Literature at the University of Calgary. His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Dark Moon Digest, Behind the Mask – Tales from the Id and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine. He co-authors the horror-themed series “Devious Dialogues” with A.M. Stanley for Vague Visages. Visit his website (mikethornwrites.com) or follow him on Twitter @MikeThornWrites.

 

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Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Mike Thorn, who released his debut collection Darkest Hours towards the end of 2017 through Unnerving. Thorn’s Darkest Hours is a collection of 16 stories that run the gamut of the various horror sub-genres from bizarro to splatterpunk and everything in between. Just a few of the things you will find in Darkest Hours is alternate dimensions, deadly cults, ghosts, manipulations of reality, human monsters and so much more. I will be posting my review of Darkest Hours tomorrow, so please stop by and check that out as well. Today, Mike stopped by to share his favorite Stephen King books from each decade of his career. What are your favorite King books? Does your list look like Mike’s or a little different?

I would like to thank Mike for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf, and be sure to grab a copy of Darkest Hours from the links below!

“Favorite King Book for Every Decade” by Mike Thorn

1970s – Rage (1977)
Runner ups: The Shining (1977), The Long Walk (1979)
Published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, Rage is aptly named. This novel brings brutal, furious social diagnosis to bear on a plot that’s condensed in time and space. The bulk of the narrative plays out when twisted protagonist Charlie holds his high school classmates hostage, subjecting them to a forced, Lord of the Flies-inspired psychotherapy session. This is a stunning early novel, driven by King’s already-polished sense of voice and carefully channeled anger. It also anticipates many of the author’s career long fixations – the damage caused by abusive adults; the bestial instincts lurking beneath societal veneers; and the psychological processes of outsiders. I devoured the entire novel in one sitting, but its readability should not be mistaken for disposability. This is a thoughtful, challenging novel and a glimpse of even greater things to come. Sadly, it feels more prescient than ever, given the recent tragic events in the United States.

1980s – It (1986)

Runner ups: Christine (1983), Pet Sematary (1983)
To my mind, the eighties saw King at his peak (which is no minor statement, given his remarkable output in other decades). It showcases the author at his boldest, most ambitious, and yes, his most reckless. The novel is excessive, teeming with ideas of micro- and macrocosmic scale that amount to nothing less than a series of lofty, summative statements: this book is about horror itself, both as a genre and an affect, but it’s also about the social cultivation of violence, prejudice, and the problematic notion of nostalgia. Is the titular monstrosity the result of socialized human beliefs and behaviors (especially those rooted in ignorance and fear), or is it much bigger than that? Is it in fact the face of some malicious cosmic order? King’s novel suggests that It might in fact be both, but this author does not set up camp in the same pessimistic territory as, say, Thomas Ligotti. No, even when he’s dishing out his most horrific material, King argues for humankind’s positive potential; even It finds affirmation within all the damning critique.

1990s – Dolores Claiborne (1992)

Runner ups: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999), Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
Alongside Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne was published in the first year of what appears to be a distinct cycle in King’s oeuvre rounded out by Rose Madder (1995) and, to a lesser extent, Insomnia (1994). To varying degrees, all four of these books deal with patriarchy and its profoundly negative impact on specific women. If you ask me, Claiborne is the most focused and beautifully written of the four. Written as a sprawling exercise in stylized first-person narration, this novel depicts its title character’s long, excruciating marriage to an abusive man. Claiborne lends attention not only to domestic context, but also to the ways in which social institutions fail to help Dolores and her daughter. It is by no means King’s first or last “non-horror” work, but it is one of his finest novels written outside the genre.

2000s – Dreamcatcher (2001)

Runner ups: From a Buick 8 (2002), Lisey’s Story (2006)
Stephen King allegedly penned this epic novel by hand while under the influence of Oxycontin — in 1999, he had been struck and nearly killed by a van, and sitting at a typewriter for long periods of time was too painful to manage. This is the author’s first post-accident work, and it’s a bizarre book indeed – set in It’s fictional town of Derry, Maine, Dreamcatcher nearly matches that 1986 novel’s wild ambition. This is an alien invasion story filled with grotesque body horror, telepathic connections and alternating timelines. It’s also filled with a palpable sense of pain and longing for the past, addled by drug-induced visions and teeming with playful pop culture references. It’s a tonally ballistic book, maybe weighed down by the range of its ideas and the conditions in which it was written, but I absolutely love it just the same. It was one of the first King books I read; the impact has been long-lasting and profound.

2010s – Full Dark, No Stars (2010)

Runner ups: Mr. Mercedes (2014), The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015)
Comprised of four absorbing novellas, Full Dark, No Stars shows Stephen King at his bleakest and most despairing. It’s an intensely moral book, underscored by severe reflections on the costs of violence and selfishness. Sometime around the late 1990s (I notice the shift most clearly with Bag of Bones [1998]), King’s prose style seems to change – it’s leaner, more focused than ever, often foregrounding inner and spoken dialogue rather than description. Some of his recent output veers surprisingly far from the unbridled, emotional energy of his early work, but Full Dark, No Stars appears to see the author back in the space that inspired him to write books like Roadwork (1981) and Apt Pupil (a novella from Different Seasons [1982]). It seems to me that the legendary writer has never been more lucid and fearless than he is here, charging headlong into the toxic terrain of human misdeeds. I look forward to reading whatever else he produces in the decades to come.

LINKS

Mike Thorn’s Official Website

Unnerving Magazine’s Official Website

Purchase Darkest Hours: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About Mike Thorn

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. He completed his B.A. with honors at Mount Royal University and his M.A. in English Literature at the University of Calgary. His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Dark Moon Digest, Behind the Mask – Tales from the Id and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine. He co-authors the horror-themed series “Devious Dialogues” with A.M. Stanley for Vague Visages. Visit his website (mikethornwrites.com) or follow him on Twitter @MikeThornWrites.