a zoo in hell


#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

Thanks to fellow travelers Mark, Dave and Evan for including me in this tour. Here we go.

1) What am I working on?

Right now it is 50/50 prepping for the launch of Arcadian Gates on Blastgun Books, and the other time is spent on revising short stories and writing new ones. I've got a novel-length project that I am doing background and generative work on. It's kind of science-fiction, but also creative non-fiction.

Additionally, I've got some flash stuff congealing for the Cesspool graphic novel/art book.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I feel like my writing has developed enough that is "my voice" within the context of whatever story is being told. So, in as much as I am an individual it is different. I suppose that doesn't answer the question, though. I feel like what I do is sort of slipstream, trying to merge my favorite genre forms with philosophical and metaphysical issues. Which much of SF does, of course, but I feel like I am bringing it with a particular surreal aesthetic.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Honestly, I write the stuff that I know I cannot film practically. Writing offers an opportunity to create worlds that are consistent but do not have to worry about budgets, casting or art politics. Things can be done with words that cannot be done in a controlled way with imagery alone.

Also, I love the environments of genre writing; the fantastic and the horrible, but I dislike the lazy writing that is associated with those forms. I am a bit of a frustrated poet and I need to get that kind of thrill somewhere!

4) How does your writing process work?

Hmm. My rituals have changed over time. I usually do a bit of reading to see what is going on in the larger world of writing, maybe do some research for whatever I am working on. I put on iTunes and listen to either metal (Mastadon) or shoe-gaze psych music (Mogwai). Then, I jump into the writing and write until I get into a puzzle that I need to think about some more. I've found these breaks from the writing allow me to have the really creative solutions I want.

Sometimes, though, there is just a lonely whispering voice that begs me to listen. I do, of course.

Up Next: Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Abra's Bio:
"I grew up in Africa, India...and Kansas. Then I married a mad scientist and moved to Minneapolis, where I fold time and space to be a full-time fiction writer, part-time freelance photographer, part-time work-from-home employee, and full-time mother. My next project is learning to fold time and space to make this all physically possible! I've had short stories accepted by publications including Jim Baen's Universe and Tor.com. I specialize in dark science fiction, cheerful horror, and modern fairy tales."


The Naked Critic

The Naked Critic

Over the last couple of weeks I've noticed recurring discussion, or blogging at least, about the changing face of media criticism. I suppose this article here was the first bit of the current wave that I read, and as you can see in the comment section, I thought it was a very well-considered piece about the direction online criticism is heading. In summary, the usual mainstream media outlets are cutting back or eliminating paid criticism while unpaid or freelance criticism is creeping back to feature length. This is cool for several reasons, top of which in mind is that for once there is evidence to suggest that the entirety of humanity isn't getting stupider with every click of the trackpad.

Honestly, when I started posting my online reviews here I thought it was even more of windmill joust than posting poetry or fiction. I mean, who reads other people's reviews online? You can forgive me for thinking the forces of "THIS SUCKS" or  "the first one is soooo boring and old"were destined to dominate the comment fields and product reviews for the rest of our lifetimes. Ironically, the only intelligent conversations I can usually have are with my friends in real life, or occasionally via social media. Forget about hive intelligence, we're dealing with cyber-herd consciousness on a daily basis.

Anyway, I've gotten good traffic on here. Nothing fantastic yet, but I've never really wanted it to be huge. Obviously, I didn't start this because I thought people would actually read it. I started posting these reviews because I enjoy writing them and because it helps me sort out my own feelings in reaction to any given work. I know people are out there and reading, some of you regularly, and I hope you find some satisfaction or illumination between the lines. Because of this audience, I've had to think a little bit more about why I am saying things the way I am saying them. Regardless of what some writers might like to think, knowing that someone is reading your work does make you think about the work differently.

When I was writing film studies papers as an undergrad I made a conscious effort to not discuss whether or not a film was "good". As a matter of art and culture, there is no real value outside of commerce for saying if a film is "good". The word doesn't mean anything because it is too relative. What is useful is deciphering what the filmmakers sought to do versus how that worked for any given critic. Comparing one film to another is fair in as far as they can reveal things in contrast which may be invisible in isolation. I guess I was ahead of the curve in some ways, because as this article points out, no one really reads published reviews as part of a purchasing decision anymore. People read reviews to understand, to put into context and to be entertained. My reviews have always been as much creative non-fiction as they are "considerations," so I am pretty exited that this kind of criticism is gaining an audience out there in the interwebs.

If a friend asks me if a film is "good", I will give them my abbreviated thoughts, like most normal people do. If a stranger asks me, I feel the need to qualify and put it into context, because they have no idea what my tastes are and also because I have no interest in convincing them I am right. I am not selling them tickets and this ain't debate club, sunshine. The best of my opinion, allowed to take its full form in these "considerations", is the ability to have someone understand, maybe feel, my perspective like you might in the original work itself. Anyway, the short version. I am thrilled that criticism in a broader world is starting to value this more subjective, but more rewarding, way of considering the flashing light you watched uninterrupted for two hours.

Tom Cruise Theory

As another example of this, here is an interesting article about Tom Cruise's career. On one level it is about how the movie star has risen and fallen over the decades of working in what remains of the studio system. On a more interesting level, this is a look at how a modern critic constructs meaning out of a body of work. The writer, Amy Nicholson, has some great access to people who witnessed key points in Cruise's public life. The implication of her article is that Cruise is a noble actor who has been defeated in part by loyalty, and in part by a lack of awareness about how this new media works. She's constructed a counter argument to the prevailing narrative of "Tom Cruise the scientology crackpot who had a really good agent for a while."

I can't say I agree with her entirely, but I enjoyed and was very entertained by the way she constructed her case, her story about what Tom Cruise wanted to do and what actually happened. I don't believe in the Hollywood that she does, and there is a vague hint of nostalgia for the machinery and madness of old Tinseltown in between her words. Tom Cruise is crafted to be a noble, but still tragic hero. There is every possibility the whole essay is a very clever bit of marketing on Cruise's behalf, but it doesn't matter because the case that is presented is interesting. Maybe Mr. Cruise wrote it himself?

This is also worth noting because it constructs a narrative across many of his films, it creates Tom Cruise the character as it disguises it as biography. The author also tells the story of marketing mainstream cinema, about the changing notions of what a blockbuster can be, and how the handsome leading man, the right profile, is becoming the very thing many of us believed it to be already. The leading man is a naked emperor, something we always thought we needed but really don't. Tom Cruise will have to be an actor like every other actor, and all of us will be the better for it. Very soon big media  film criticism will have a similar reckoning.


Dungeons & Drag Queens - Review

Original Site: http://hellnotes.com/dungeons-drags-queens-book-review

Dungeons & Drag Queens
M. P. Johnson
Eraserhead Press
ISBN: 978-1-62105-103-9

Reviewed by T.A. Wardrope

“Dungeons & Drag Queens,” the latest novel written by M. P. Johnson, is a sword and sorcery tale that plays with genre in much the same way that its drag queen protagonist, Sleazella, plays with gender and her own sexual proclivities. Once the most powerful drag queen in all of Green Bay, Wisconsin, she finds herself teleported to the fantasy world of Houmak in order to become the bride of the great old god Houmak itself. Sleazella doesn’t think this sounds so great, and her escape from the wizard Dravor sets off an epic adventure that spans the lands of Houmak and beyond.

Published by Eraserhead Press, filed under Bizarro fiction, and featuring an image of a pink-haired drag queen holding aloft a skull on the cover; there is nothing about this book that should make a reader expect a standard fantasy adventure story. This adventure contains enough tropes to be recognizable as fantasy, though. There’s a wizard with a familiar; there are gigantic monsters, strange creatures in the forest, warrior tribes and a mercenary hero with a heart of gold. However, Sleazella’s way of the world leaves all of this drenched in sex and raunch. Fans looking for a “straight” adventure should pretend they never even saw this cover.

Though it is still a young sub-genre, Bizarro contains a broad range of works of varying degrees of estrangement from mainstream storytelling. Accusing some of these books as shock for shock’s sake is fair and often the reach toward absurdity and surrealist confrontation get too much in the way of narrative. Happily, M. P. Johnson does not have this problem. This story, as driven by cartoonish satire as it is, still moves at a brisk pace and is always entertaining. Sleazella is a character with depth and she develops as her challenges force her to. Much more than a stereotype in high heels, she brings heart to a story that could’ve been a hollow parody.

There are a few gags that get a little long in the tooth, and some Sleazella’s one-liners aren’t as hilarious as the others, but I took this as all part of the campy fun of this book. This book is spawned from a cult cinema sensibility and it should be enjoyed with that spirit. There are scenes to be horrified by, to laugh at, and to find sympathy with in “Dungeons & Drag Queens,” but if you are tied to more traditional kinds of sword and sorcery this will not be your cup of pink blood. Sleazella is a master of swordplay, certainly, but it’s not the kind of sword you are probably thinking of.


A Field in England (2013) - Review

A Field in England


The conceit of mainstream cinema is that everyone should or will have the same experience in front of the screen, whether it is fabric or plasma. A few minutes standing in a theater lobby as any movie gets out should reveal the misconception in that thought. A set of attentive viewers can agree on the basic plot and arc of the story, but dig deeper than that and you will see how personal the dream of cinema can be.

I enjoy experimental, avant-garde, surrealist, or whatever, film because it plays with this sense of shared dream-making. Some films will send the viewer into their own trip, others will somehow create a consensual sense out of meaningless elements. A Field in England, directed by Ben Wheatley, works at both edges of that polarity.

If I had to tell you what this film is about, it would go something like this. Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith), a holy man in service to an alchemist, is sent to capture a rogue occultist during the English Civil War. Whitehead falls in with a group of deserters from both sides (Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover), eventually convincing them to forego their quest for beer in order to help him find the occultist O'Neil (Michael Smiley). They find him or he finds them, the film is (intentionally) unclear on this point. O' Neil captures them, with the help of his henchmen Cutler (Ryan Pope) and puts them all to work to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the fields. What they find is uncertain, but it unleashes a spiritual and formal storm which makes everything topsy-turvey.

There are long stretches where the characters do little more than talk and walk. This would be annoying if it weren't for the crafty dialogue and character work that is revealed in this banter. Furthermore, I believe most of the "hints" to the what is really going on in all of this can be found in the actual dialogue.

This is a strange little beast of a movie. Part existential new wave, part surrealist, part supernatural horror and part historical drama, it seems dead set on telling its story on its own terms. Of course, the further into the mushroom (yes, that kind) filled field our merry band gets, the harder it is to tell exactly what the story is. Visually speaking, we see people get shot, people get killed and the climax of it all is a several minute psychedelic tour-de-force which blends stroboscopic effects (flicker film), art film tableau, and multiple exposures. There is a Jodorowsky vibe to all of this, but the imagery is all drawn from the narrative of the film, not an external "object of desire", so Bunuel's narrative films are worth mentioning. The immediate experience of this is a bewildering spin of WTF that leaves the viewer groping for a thread of sense.

This is where it gets interesting and remarkable. As disorienting as the film is, it does communicate the story quite well. Well enough, that with the exception on one historical detail, I left the film understanding most of what Ben Wheatley explained in a bonus feature on the disc. In a sense, I "got it" without really knowing that I understood the film. A Field in England works on you like the mushrooms in the strange field. Disoriented, transmogrified, and beyond sense; it communicates like a soft hallucination.

T.A. Wardrope

3.75/5 Stars


Godzilla (2014) - Review

Godzilla (2014) - [Spoilers]

Original Site:http://boxd.it/38TEX

Sometime around 1978 I brought my "Godzilla vs. Amphibion" record to show-and-tell day at Armatage Elementary School. This was by far my favorite record, even surpassing Elvis and disco Star Wars. I was expecting the kids, the teacher, to be won over by how awesome Godzilla was. Godzilla was popular at that time, but still somewhat of a geeky thing. Anyway, they were not won over and they did not respond to the awesome story of Godzilla laying waste to Seattle as he fought Amphibion. On one level I was very disappointed, but an another level it was my first taste of what it meant to like something which was not totally popular and it was delicious.

I enjoyed the 1998 Godzilla, by virtue of it being a daikaiju movie, but I never understood why those people called it a Godzilla movie or wanted to remake Godzilla. They had no respect for the fans and thought they could rework a subculture icon into a mainstream hero. Nothing new there, they've been doing that for decades now. In a perverse way, that film was pretty easy to digest, because there weren't any stakes at all. I knew it wasn't going to be awesome. Things were quite a bit different for Godzilla (2014).

The initial preview trailers gave me chills, Gareth Edward's Monsters (2010) was pretty much the sort of monster movie I would make, and if Hollywood has learned anything it is that they really do need to listen to the fans for an established character to work. As the publicity machine moved on, there was less and less to worry about and more to look forward to. Instead of worrying about it sucking, I wondered how I would react if it was totally and completely awesome. Would I be consumed by professional jealousy? Would I feel like my time in this world was done? What work would be left for to do if not a totally awesome daikaiju movie? On another level, I don't think I can handle a zombie-like Godzilla fad. I just can't.

Let me say, in the best and most excited way possible, that I do not have to worry about that, yet. Godzilla (2014) is very much a traditional Godzilla movie and one that honors the character and the fans. This will excite the loyalists, attract a new generation and happily alienate all the right people. This is not, of course, much like the first Godzilla (1954) movie, this is much closer to the Heisei and Millennium series of films. "King of the Monsters or saviour of our city?" asks a news crawl in the final scenes of the film, and that ambiguity sums up exactly what this iteration of Godzilla is all about.
So, this puts this film in line with the majority of Godzilla films, sadly apart from the original, but happily immune to the silliness of the lowest points of the Showa era.

I can't think of a single Godzilla movie in which I think fondly of the human characters. Aside from Dr. Serizawa and Dr. Yamane, none of those actors can really compare with Gojira. The Showa era has a series of forgettable heroes, heroines, and children which always felt more like a way to fill time and save money simultaneously. I suppose, by contrast, it made the actual daikaiju scenes more exciting. Likewise, most of the anti-Godzilla JSDF were just plain annoying. I wanted any and all kaiju to smash those cretins. I hope I was supposed to feel that way.

So, Godzilla (2014) honors this "tradition" as well. Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody) is awesome, but sadly he disappears too soon. (Though as a matter of narrative logic, he had to be removed when he did, what else was a paranoid going to do when all of his conspiracies become mundane?) Juliette Binoche's (Sandra Brody) loss was tangible as well, she brought a lot of charisma that Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody) doesn't command yet. I guess we need to keep these things on the young side, though. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody) spends most of the film being a slightly clueless hero. You can connect this back to the comic antics of Showa heroes, but I don't think it was quite that intentional. If the film's goal was to really highlight the "folly of man", Ford Brody was a great vehicle for that. Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ichiro Serizawa) gives one of the better performances, doing the lion's share of the Godzilla backstory. Unfortunately, I say this as constructive criticism, many aspects of his character come uncomfortable close to the "magical negro" trope. His character could have brought even more to the story.

As I said earlier, if you are disappointed by the human performances and you think that affects the quality of the film, you did not go to this expecting a Godzilla movie. You expected a Steven Spielberg movie or a Joss Whedon movie. I'm not saying this a hollow or soulless movie, by any means, Gareth Edward's talent is to infuse genre with humanity and subtle overtones, and this is in full effect in Godzilla (2014). There are moments of pure cinema genius in this film. There are visions that surpass anything done in a previous Godzilla film. When Godzilla emerges from the smoke and haze, towering over Ford Brody, the soundtrack drops to near silence and this epic portrait is unrivaled. This is the creature I could worship.

There is plenty of other imagery to get really excited about. The opening scenes are filled with homage to Godzilla and his universe. The opening title sequence is a delicious fever dream of paranoia which is pulled directly from Joe Brody's imagination. The fight scenes are delightfully cinematic and have a dynamism that is natural to the tradition of Godzilla, but also advances the visual language into the modern era. Moments such Godzilla slapping M.U.T.O. mid-flight into a building were amazing and didn't make me miss the suits at all. Made all the better because lizards actually do that. Trust me, I know.

This is certainly the super-sized version of Godzilla. Everything about it is gigantic (except for his spikes, which was disappointing), and while this has attracted some criticism, to me it feels more faithful to the original than anything else. When I say original I mean the Godzilla that lived on the page before any rubber was stitched together. Gojira, the Japanese name, is a combination of either "Gorilla" or "Monster" and "Whale" (I've seen both). Yet, this is the first time, aside from Showa human-like antics, where Godzilla has actually shown primate behavior. His expressions and fighting are distinctly gorilla-like, and I think this sort of attention to detail is what makes Godzilla (2014) something to celebrate.

The M.U.T.O. are a worthy set of adversaries. There aren't enough insect daikaiju in the canon, so these 8-legged beasties are welcome. Like the best of the enemies, they do actually threaten and overpower Godzilla. One high point of all Godzilla films are when the alien daikaiju have sympathetic moments. Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Hedorah are not completely inhuman creatures. The M.U.T.O. are following nature's course, eating and breeding as they should, but it just so happens they are millions of years out of place and a threat to everything else on the planet. Like Godzilla, they are not evil, but they will do what they will in order to survive. When M.U.T.O. howl in anguish at the loss of their eggs, it is hard to not feel sympathy.

Honestly, though I was rooting for a final showdown between Godzilla and the remaining military, I was relieved when it took a nap and went for a swim after the climactic battle with M.U.T.O. Godzilla has been through so much, all of us fans have, and it was so nice to just say "so long" to it. We all know you can't keep Godzilla down, so there was no point putting us through the emotional stress of killing him off pointlessly.

As a point of art, this choice resonates on a much broader frequency, too. The fact that humanity is facing very hard choices in our relationship to nature is no longer a matter of science-fiction films. That moment has passed. While we may not face Hedorah, Destroyah or M.U.T.O. anytime soon, the threats are just as large and just as powerful. I would be happy to have Godzilla around to keep us in our place or to unleash the blue fire of a thousand suns when we really need it most.


Godzilla movie poster


Gojira (1954) Review

Godzilla: The Original Version (60th Anniversary)

I don't know what it is that makes giant monsters so compelling. The fascination with stories about giant creatures goes back much further than the early fifties American atomic bestiary, earlier than the first "King Kong", probably even further than the golden age of mythic storytelling in ancient civilization. Whether this obsessions comes from some primordial memory of beings we've since otherwise forgotten or from a Jungian tendency to conceptualize the infinite and impossible as natural giants, these creatures have always been with us and always will.

"Gojira" (1954) wasn't the first giant monster movie. Depending on how you define "giant monster" that honor can go to the original "King Kong" (1933) or "The Lost World" (1925). "Gojira" wasn't even the first atomic age monster. "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" (1953) was a dinosaur brought to gigantic life through nuclear weapons. There were five other Hollywood iterations of nuclear nature before the American version of "Godzilla, King of the Monsters " (1956) arrived. So, there is really no reason why this black and white movie which didn't use stop motion animation (mostly) should have the prominence it does. Yet, it has surpassed them all and become nearly archetypal. I often joke that Godzilla is the only supernatural being I can really believe in, but the truth is I am only half-joking.

I think it is somewhat uncanny that after all of these years of being a "G-Fan" I have finally seen the real cinematic evidence of what I knew to be true on an intuitive level. The fact that Godzilla (1956) is a just a pale shadow of the original is common knowledge, but I have to love it because it brought this great beast alive in my young imagination. Now, I am old enough to understand how limited and simplified that version is. That Godzilla fits in nicely with the 1950's American pop science-fiction narrative of science run amok; nature mutated and bent on destroying pretty girls and fancy cars. In these movies, the hero always kills the monster, order is restored and everyone can breath a sigh of relief that this will never happen again. The subtext, of course, is that as much as we destroy and screw things up, good old know-how is always going to win in the end. Right?

Restored to its original glory and the original running time, Gojira has a much different feeling. I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to say the difference between the 1956 "Godzilla" and the 1954 one is similar to the difference between the 1936 "Dracula" and the 1958 "Horror of Dracula". (You could also make the case that it is similar to the difference between "Dracula" (1936) and "Nosferatu" (1922), but that is more a matter of style than actual substance.) This film, despite it's clear b-movie roots, is much more than a thrilling cautionary tale for teens. This is apocalypse before the apocalypse was cool, this is a memory of total annihilation made by people that have actually seen it happen.  Go ahead and laugh at the special effects, but you may feel a bit awkward when a weeping mother and daughter are consumed by a sweeping atomic firestorm a few minutes later. This is a theater of doom made to signify something far greater than the meager Toho soundstage would allow. I guarantee you won't see teenagers joking sardonically about the Nagasaki atomic bomb in "The Blob" (1958), like you will in "Gojira" (1954).

This 60th Anniversary wide release is essentially the same as the 50th Anniversary release from 2004. Though it is delivered here in digital format, and I have to say that it is better for this preservation. The blacks are deeper and many of the details are sharper than in previous film transfers. Additionally, the translation and subtitles are new and improved. There is a bit more poetry in this version than I have seen previously and the actual pacing of the subtitles on the screen is more precise. In this print it is easy to see that the noir style is not an accident of contrast but a definite choice of cinematography. The soundtrack is cleaner too, and the overall effect is a more coherent narrative with stronger emotional effects.

Equally interesting is that this film is as much horror as it is science-fiction. The nod to expressionism through noir is explicit in many of the scenes of Godzilla looming over devastation. Imagery of victims being treated in hospitals, the long tracking shots over total devastation, the screams of victims crushed or burned all add up to an experience that is somehow prescient of the gritty apocalyptic horrors we've come to expect in the 21st century cinema. This isn't The Walking Dead, this is the walking death.

I am a fan of the Lovecraft mythos, and I have long seen the connection between the lurking doom of Cthulu and the undersea behemoth that we know as Godzilla. There is a deeper connection than just narrative overlap, though. In the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the cosmic terrors are merely signifiers for horrors that that the human mind can never really wrap its brain around. The true nightmare far exceeds anything our monkey brains can grapple with. This applies to our atomic fire breathing giant too.

In a world where all that remains of human beings are carbon shadows on brick walls, when the soil itself crackles with the energy of the sun, where you are spared the horror of sudden blindness by the incineration that arrives before the light itself, a giant "destroyer of worlds" is no laughing matter. Don't think that the thunder in the theater is mere special effect, or the light on Godzilla's spikes is an easy optical trick; this is the aftershock and earthquake light from an explosion that happened long ago and has taken this long to reach us.

Go, go, go, Godzilla.

T.A. Wardrope
Original Site: boxd.it/37v4p


And the Hills Opened Up Review

And the Hills Opened Up
David Oppegaard
Burnt Bridge
ISBN: 978-0-9886727-1-0
Reviewed by Todd Wardrope 
Horror novels are not easy things to write. Despite the many volumes to the contrary, sustaining a horror story for several hundred pages is a very tricky thing. The mood, mystery and threat which propels the best horror writing can be exhausting for both reader and writer if not done deftly. With And the Hills Opened Up, David Oppegaard has delivered a short novel that pulls that trick off with grace to spare.
Set in Red Hill, Wyoming, circa 1890, And the Hills Opened Up begins as these things often do, with something very unpleasant being unearthed by an unknowing and uncaring group of miners. This creature, rather than taking its time selecting its victims, begins a full-scale assault on Red Hill that shows no mercy or reason. The threat here isn’t so much a killer as a full-on agent of total apocalypse. Residents of Red Hill, sordid and innocent alike, do what they can to fend off the rising tide of death. Very few, if any of them, succeed and it is never pleasant.
And the Hills Opened Up takes a cue from Stephen King or the The Walking Dead, as it travels with several characters who are caught up in the terror. None are favored and the cards are never tipped to reveal when and how each of them will meet their fate. There’s plenty of good character depth to most of the residents we meet, so their doom is felt even more acutely. Oppegaard makes it pretty clear from the start that women and children will not be spared out of some sense of generic decorum. Even so, Oppegaard knows when to look away and when to keep your gaze locked onto the crimson reaping of his monster. Humanity underlies every moment of the ordeal, and only one of the deaths feels like retribution. This is not the meting out of holy justice.
Oppegaard negotiates the narrow way of staying within the established pathways of genre and riding off that trail. You’ve got many of the stock characters of the western small town, but these types are used to good effect. Young Sherriff Atkins is the earnest “star” in town, but he’s not as confident as he acts. Reverend Lynch is neither pure holy man or faithless, he is one of God’s working men; he’s doing a job he doesn’t always like or understand.
With it’s genetic background of western and horror, And The Hills Opened Up had to be a pulpish event, but Oppegaard builds his penny dreadful with firm paper and leather. As much fun as he is having with his mayhem, there are moments of prose genius and insight that stab harder than the claws of his vengeful demon. A brisk read, this book keeps mystery and danger going for the entire page count. You may feel, like many characters in the story, that the ending comes too terribly soon.