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Release-Day Review: Quiet Places – A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror by Jasper Bark (Crystal Lake Publishing)

A new tale from Jasper Bark is always something I look forward to reading. The man has a style which is easy to read and flows like a delightful river, which seems almost at odds with the kinds of places Jasper takes the reader to with his stories…

For example, the title-story of Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts is one of those stories that makes you cringe and wince and clear the sick from your throat, but it also hooks nacreous claws into your mind and stays with you. And all of Jasper’s tales work on myriad levels, too – memories of scenes will pop into your mind months after reading a tale, and yet those memories will understand the scene better, or perhaps even differently. It’s one of the ways a great storyteller stands apart.

And Jasper has done it again with Quiet Places.

The cover (by the supremely talented Ben Baldwin), coupled with the title, says so many things, and is a perfect snapshot-image of the tale – that scene also takes place in the novella, and when you read it I’m pretty sure that you might flip back to the cover; if you can stop reading long enough to do so, I have to add.

Because by the time you get that specific scene, you’ll already be deep into the tale – you’ll have met sad, determined, slightly off-kilter Sally, her husband David, some of the inhabitants of the small town they live in, and Hettie and the Beast. Jasper’s spell will have been tightly woven, and you’ll be aching to know how Sally got into the situation she’s in at the beginning of the novel.

What Jasper has done with this tale is create something that has many aspects but which also works supremely well as a whole – you’ve got Sally’s psychological self, coupled with her determination; you’ve got David’s seeming lack of concern and spine; you’ve got a small town, with the accompanying mentality, and it’s people; you’ve got a major secret which everyone is keeping; you’ve got strange happenings in the forest and hedgerows; you’ve got cosmic horror. It all works. It all meshes. Masterfully.

But the heart of the tale -which boils down to what we experience, decide, act upon and then rue- is where this tale really shines. Monsters aren’t actually monsters because of what they do or what they look like – they’re monsters because they reveal themselves to be almost akin to those aspects of ourselves we choose to disregard or ignore or hide. And Jasper understands that sometimes the monster isn’t the monster, and that the victim can also be the knowing instigator.

Quiet Places is tight, lyrical, spans centuries is novel ways, and shows us parts of ourselves which might, given the perfect nudge at the right time, change from that which gives us strength to that which makes us want to run in fear and terror. And it’s also a tale which shows it’s characters (and the reader) that what you think you know is almost always wrong, or at least misunderstood.

It’s an excellent tale, on many levels, not the least of which is that it shows how versatile and empathic a writer Jasper is. Highly recommended!

10/10

Click here to order your copy from Amazon, add it here on Goodreads, and do check out Jasper’s website for more info and freebies (when you opt-in for his newsletter). There’ll be a kickass launch-day event on Facebook later this evening, so join us! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Crystal Lake Publishing, Reviews

 

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Review: Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts by Jasper Bark (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Hey everyone, Dave here, and I’ve got a new review for you – that of a short story collection from an author I’m now a huge fan of!

This is collection featuring stories from a storyteller who should be spoken of in the same breath as Stephen King and Clive Barker. Very few storytellers, especially in the difficult and harrowing genre that is Horror, have managed to grab me from the get-go, and Jasper succeeded.

stuck

STUCK ON YOU

The first tale blew me away and made my gorge swirl in my mouth. It describes the fate of an utter asshole as he travels across the border to help his girlfriend. One thing leads to another and a while later he has been lightning-struck and … well, I’m not spoiling it, but fuck.

I was astounded by what this guy went through, even more so by the way Jasper describes it all – pulling no punches, thrusting the reader into the mind, terror and pain of this character to such a degree that trying to tear myself away was like, well, fiddling with a very fresh scab. By the end of the tale I was breathless, shaking my head over and over, and hoping to hell that I never find myself in the kind of situation the character found himself in.

TAKING THE PISS

Damned fine tale that, in my mind, asks the question: ‘If you could right a wrong, and in doing so caused a lot of pain to someone, but could get away with it, would you do it?’ By the end of this tale I was cheering on what had occurred – a mean feat, considering just what it is that happens, but Jasper has a way, man…

THE CASTIGATION CRUNCH

The Catholic in me *loved* this tale, and if any stock-broker, insurance-broker, tax-guru type reads this then I’m pretty sure they will, too – long live Suchs! 😉

ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT

A tale that plays with your expectations right until the end while it explores the notions of betrayal, love and obsession in a twisted, horrifying manner. Also one of the ‘hotter’ tales in the collection. 😉

HOW THE DARK BLEEDS

This tale surprised me – in the beginning I thought I knew who the victim was and how that victim had been wronged, but as the tale progressed I was pleased to have been proved wrong. This tale also explores something entirely new when it comes to blood-rituals, so the crazier among you will definitely enjoy it. 😉

MOUTHFUL

Remember that scene in Hannibal (the novel and the movie adaptation) where Hannibal feeds a character his own brain? I never thought I would read something that would trump the horror of that scene. Not until I read this tale.

HAUNTING THE PAST

This tale was chilling and hard-hitting (not that the others aren’t), and follows how a man trapped in a house after a terrible event begins to understand just where he is and what he is doing. You might struggle to sleep after this tale, folks.

END OF THE LINE

A tightly-plotted and awesomely explored take on a couple of tropes, those being The-Guy-Who-Can’t-Remember-a-Thing and The Maze – didn’t see the resolution coming, and neither will you.

DEAD SCALP

Probably the very first Horror-Western I’ve read, this tale takes a whole bunch of ideas and mashes them together – coherently and masterfully written, it builds mysteries and characters until the very end. Damned good tale!

***

Taken together, these tales are shocking, brutal, utterly creepy and, in at least a part of every tale, beautiful. Jasper explores many different themes and ideas, pushing imagery into the mind and causing physical reactions while reveling in the settings his characters explore. There’s a seamless blending of physical settings and mind-scapes in these tales, and even though I sometimes didn’t want to be dipped into the various character’s minds I just couldn’t put this collection down.

If you’re looking for something that pushes many, many boundaries, this is it.

10 / 10

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This collection was published by Crystal Lake Publishing and is available from Amazon for both your Kindle and as a paperback. The collection also features excellent illustrations by Rob Moran (who also did the cover), so those looking for a ‘book with pictures’ can’t complain. 😉

Remember to check out Jasper’s site and keep on eye on Crystal Lake Publishing for future tales from Jasper.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Reviews

 

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M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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