Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup

You Like it Darker by Stephen KingView image in fullscreen

You Like It Darker by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)
This new collection of 12 stories opens with Two Talented Bastids, which questions how two ordinary guys from a small town in Maine managed to become famous almost overnight; one as a writer, the other an artist. They always denied any mystery but, after their deaths, the writer’s son discovers a notebook that seems to explain the secret of their success. In the collection’s afterword, King puzzles over similar questions: where do his stories come from? And why are so many of them concerned with dark matters? Horror stories, he writes, are “best appreciated by those who are compassionate”, and in his stories he has “tried especially hard to show the real world as it is”. Danny Coughlin’s Bad Dream is about a man who feels compelled to find out if a murder he dreamed about is real. He discovers a body and tips off the police only to be suspected of the crime himself. Rattlesnakes looks at the later life of a character from King’s 1981 horror novel Cujo, as an old man visiting Florida, where he’s pursued by the ghosts of a long-ago tragedy. King is still the king.

Tomorrowing by Terry BissonView image in fullscreen

Tomorrowing by Terry Bisson (Duke, £13.99)
The final book by the popular American SF writer, who died earlier this year, is a compilation of the monthly feature he wrote for Locus (the genre’s only trade journal) from April 2004 to July 2023. Inspired by “Today in History” columns in daily newspapers, Bisson imagined them written from the perspective of two centuries ahead. For almost 20 years he was dedicated to creating four micro-fictions every month. The result is a collection of pure, distilled science fiction at its best, perfect miniatures that combine social satire with prediction in stories surreal, disturbing, thought-provoking and hilarious.

Freakslaw by Jane FlettView image in fullscreen

Freakslaw by Jane Flett (Doubleday, £16.99)
This debut novel by an award-winning short story writer is set during a hot summer in the 1990s, when a travelling funfair called Freakslaw arrives in a gloomy Scottish town. A band of outcasts and deviants, some with magical powers, they swoop in and uncover the hidden truths of local people. Their targets include a boy repressing his desire for other boys, a girl obsessed with her studies, men who drown violent urges in drink and their meek, oppressed wives. Gloria the fortune teller has a plan for revenge if the town folk turn against them. Her 16-year-old daughter, a contortionist and self-taught witch, doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as she has her own dangerous fun. A transgressive, inventive dark fantasy with believably complex characters.

The Mark by Fríđa IsbergView image in fullscreen

The Mark by Fríđa Isberg, translated by Larissa Kyzer (Faber, £16.99)
In near-future Iceland, a test for empathy has been developed, its use promoted as a means of nipping crime in the bud. If people lacking the ability to feel touched by the pain of others are identified, they can be given therapy to make them into good citizens. Politicians are quick to seize on it and a referendum looms: should the test be made compulsory? This thought-provoking debut won multiple awards in Iceland.

Horror Movie by Paul TremblayView image in fullscreen

Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay (Titan, £19.99)
The latest from the bestselling, award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts focuses on an experimental horror movie made by amateurs on a micro-budget in the summer of 1993 and never screened. Over the decades it becomes the stuff of dark legend. There are plans for a big-budget remake, with help from the only surviving member of the cast – “the Thin Kid” – who knows the whole terrible story. Slasher movies are seen by some as kitschy fun, but this is a seriously disturbing novel, delving into the sacrifices art demands, psychological trauma and how monsters are made. Sometimes painful reading, it’s also incredibly gripping, smart and scary.

Source: theguardian.com