Tag Archives: 1910s

Sensing Something Wrong: A Review of The Wendigo

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a horned, hairy creature standing on it’s back feet. It looks like a large goat. Title: The Wendigo

Author: Algernon Blackwood

Publisher: Eveleigh Nash

Publication Date: 1910 (and republished on April 21, 2022)

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical

Length: 74 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo” tells the story of a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness that goes horribly wrong when the hunters become the hunted. Drawing on the mythical creature known as the Wendigo, this story is regarded by many critics to be one of the best horror tales of all time.

Review:

Content Warning: Racism. I will discuss it in depth in my review.

Forests aren’t friendly to everyone.

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that explored the various reactions people can have to being in the middle of the woods. What is peaceful and wholesome to one person could be mildly unsettling or even downright terrifying to another based on their previous experiences with nature and how much they know about all of the sounds that occur when one is in the middle of nowhere and can see nothing byt trees stretching out in every direction.

Horror doesn’t have to be gory or gross. There wasn’t single drop of blood in this tale, and yet it made me shudder all the same. I appreciated the slow buildup as the characters walked deeper into the woods and further away from anyone who might help them. That methodical pacing gave me plenty of opportunities to imagine what might happen next and to chew on the clues I’d already discovered. The slower and quieter scenes were exactly what the storyline needed in order to flourish. Some things are much scarier when they’ve been given time to marinate in your thoughts, and this is one of them.

I wanted to make note of the racism mentioned in the content warning. This story was written in 1910, and the author had some truly odd ideas about First Nations people and their mystical connection to nature that many white people of his era believed. In no way am I trying to excuse the offensive nature of those passages or his bizarre beliefs about how one’s race should influence what one does in the woods, only to say that the world has changed for the better since it was written and I think the author was trying to be complimentary with those descriptions based on the historical time in which he lived. While I am generally able to shake my head and ignore ridiculous stuff like this in old books, I did want to let my readers know about them in advance so you can come to your own conclusions about whether this is something you want to read.

With that being said, I loved what Mr. Blackwood did with his characters, especially Punk, a First Nations cook and guide for the group, later on in the storyline. Their character arcs were memorable and made a great deal of sense given what they found in the woods and how everyone reacted to that experience. It made me wonder what would have happened if Dr. Cathcart, the protagonist, had been more interested in cultures outside of his own. This was one of those cases where a little communication would have gone a long way, but certain cultural assumptions made that difficult. I found myself wondering how the storyline might have changed if it were instead told from the perspective of Punk after he realized that the white people he was accompanying through the woods had accidentally discovered something horrific.

The Wendigo was a delightfully chilling tale.

A Wanted Haunting: A Review of Afterward

Book cover for Afterward by Edith Wharton. Image on cover shows a man and a woman peering out of their upstairs window at a man staring at them and standing on the ground below. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: Afterward – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Edith Wharton

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1910 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 53 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb:

A newly rich American couple buy an ancient manor house in England, where they hope to live out their days in solitude. One day, when the couple are gazing out at their grounds, they spy a mysterious stranger. When her husband disappears shortly after this eerie encounter, the wife learns the truth about the legend that haunts the ancient estate.

Review:

Content warning: suicide. I will not be discussing this in my review.

Sometimes the presence of at least one ghost is the biggest selling point of them all for a crumbling estate that’s for sale.

The thought of purposefully seeking out a haunted house to live in made me laugh out loud when I read the first scene of this story. Mary and Edward Boyne didn’t want to buy any old house. It had to be haunted! I was so amused by their approach to this that I couldn’t wait to find out why they wanted to live with a ghost and what they hoped to get out of the arrangement.

There were times when I found the pacing slow, especially in the beginning when the main characters first moved into their new home. With that being said, Ms. Wharton had excellent reasons for writing her tale this way. While I did still wish for a snappier beginning, the twist ending more than made up for that.

The character development was well done. Mary and Edward were both restless, creative souls who honestly seemed to have more time and energy on their hands that was good for them. I shook my head at some of their attempts to get enough mental stimulation out of life, but I was also fascinated by the fact that neither member of this couple was at all satisfied by what seemed to me to be a pretty stable place for the creative endeavours (painting and writing) they were hoping to pursue.

I’d heartily recommend this short story to anyone who doesn’t mind a dark plot.

Bad Decisions: A Review of The Diary of Mr. Poynter

The Diary of Mr. Poynter - A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories) by M.R. James. Image on cover is of a furry monster. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: The Diary of Mr. Poynter – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: M.R. James

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1919 and 2016.

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 38 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 2 stars

Blurb:

While engrossed in an ancient account of the sinister death of a student obsessed with his own hair, a man leans down to absently pet his dog — oblivious of the true nature of the creature crouching beside him. Seth’s newly illustrated version of M.R. James’ classic Christmas ghost story is a spooky holiday delight.

Review:

It turns out there is such a thing as being too engrossed in a book.

Out of all of the things in the world one could get excited about, a fabric sample is honestly pretty far down on my list. The fact that something as ordinary as this could change the lives of the people who found it in ways they never would have imagined made for a creative read.

The pacing of this story was slow and included many rambling details and asides that didn’t seem that relevant to pushing the plot forward. As interested as I was in the premise, I struggled to remain interested in the storyline because of these issues.

I’m not normally a fan of tales that include morality lessons, but this one was nice and subtle which is something I appreciate in that genre. The reader is mostly left to their own devices when it comes to deciding what the mistakes of the characters might have been and how they could have made better choices.

If you don’t mind a little sermonizing in your ghost stories, this is an interesting read.

Vintage Science Fiction Month: Vintage Images

Vintage SciFi Month was created by Little Red Reviewer and is moderated by Red Star Reviews. Any science fiction film, short story, play, or book released before 1979 is eligible for this celebration of classic science fiction. Click on the links above to participate, read other entries, or for more information in general. 

Most of my entries for Vintage Science Fiction month tend to be reviews of films, books, or TV shows. Today I thought I’d mix things up a little by sharing some interesting vintage science fiction artwork, covers, and logos I found on various parts of Wikimedia.

" Festus, a poem" artwork by Philip James Bailey. Image is of an angelic creature flying up towards a triangle that is emitting many rays of light.

The book cover for “Festus, A Poem” by Philip James Bailey. This book had about 22,000 lines of blank verse poetry written across 50 scenes about the legend of Faust. It is quite hard to find these days.

 

Science Fiction Quarterly cover. Shows man turning into a tree and a woman who appears to be causing it.

A cover of Science Fiction Quarterly from the summer 1942 issue.

 

Universe Science Fiction cover from 1953. Image on cover shows small group of people watching a rocket ship take off.

A cover of Universe Science Fiction from May 1953.

 

Cover of Super-Science Fiction, June 1959. Image on cover shows two astronauts fighting a house-sized monster that has many tentacles.

A cover of Super Science Fiction from June 1959.

 

1911 sketch of A man seeing live television in his bed.

This is an illustration from Camille Flammarion’s 1894 science fiction novel La Fin du Monde. It predicted that a man could lie in bed and watch (what we would now call) television in bed in 1911.

Science Fiction League logo. Image on logo shows rocket ship flying past earth from the perspective of someone who is in outer space looking below at both of these things.

The logo of the Science Fiction League from 1934.