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Burnt Black Suns: A Collection of Weird Tales
 
 

Burnt Black Suns: A Collection of Weird Tales [Kindle Edition]

Simon Strantzas , Laird Barron
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

In this fourth collection of stories, Simon Strantzas establishes himself as one of the most dynamic figures in contemporary weird fiction. The nine stories in this volume exhibit Strantzas’s wide range in theme and subject matter, from the Lovecraftian “Thistle’s Find” to the Robert W. Chambers homage “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine.” But Strantzas’s imagination, while drawing upon the best weird fiction of the past, ventures into new territory in such works as “On Ice,” a grim novella of arctic horror; “One Last Bloom,” a grisly account of a scientific experiment gone hideously awry; and the title story, an emotionally wrenching account of terror and loss in the baked Mexican desert. With this volume, Strantzas lays claim to be discussed in the company of Caitlín R. Kiernan and Laird Barron as one of the premier weird fictionists of our time.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 820 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Hippocampus Press (28 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00M8E8DNM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #39,904 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent weird fiction! 9 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback
Simon Strantzas' Burnt Black Suns is a collection of weird stories. It's the author's fourth short story collection (his previous collections are Beneath the Surface, Cold to the Touch and Nightingale Songs).

Burnt Black Suns is an excellent short story collection. It contains weird fiction stories that range from the modern Lovecraftian Thistle's Find to One Last Bloom that's pure scientific horror at its best and most effective.

I can honestly say that it's been a while since I've been this impressed by a weird fiction collection. I've read lots of weird fiction collections and I've enjoyed reading all of them, but collections like this one are rare, because all the stories in it are excellent and worth reading. There are no weak stories in this collection.

Burnt Black Suns contains the following nine stories (it also contains a foreword by Laird Barron):

- On Ice
- Dwelling on the Past
- Strong as a Rock
- By Invisible Hands
- One Last Bloom
- Thistle's Find
- Beyond the Banks of the River Seine
- Emotional Dues
- Burnt Black Suns

Simon Strantzas uses several classic weird fiction elements in a modern way in these stories. He writes creepy, disturbing and unsettling stories that can be categorized as weird fiction, horror and dark fantasy. He easily conjures up nightmarish images and visions that are difficult to forget, and shows his readers how the characters in his stories come face to face with unnatural and supernatural threats.

These stories are just like good old-fashioned weird fiction stories, because they're weird and unsettling stories. Some of them are creepy while others are disturbing - there's originality, creepiness and disturbing elements in them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars creepy tales......... 1 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good variation of stories; sometimes lovecraftian (is that a proper word?), sometimes aikman, lots of times strantzas. Out of all the recent horror and weird story writers that abound, and there are plenty of good ones, this writer is one of the best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection 7 Nov 2014
By ps99
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good collection of Lovecraftian stories
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome weird fiction collection. Easily the best one of 2014. 6 Jun 2014
By David Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One of the books I was really excited about this year was Burnt Black Suns by Simon Strantzas. BBS is a fantastic collection by a weird fiction author who is at the top of his game. It has a nice mix of short stories and novellas. I waited quite a long time for this work and when I finally read it, it did not disappoint.

Simon Strantzas is a master of pace and does an excellent job of balancing that slow and subtle strange feeling with developing excellent settings and complex characters. Many of the longer works in this collection feel much shorter because of this. Also, it's a very diverse collection, which made for easy reading for the two or three days it took to complete.

This collection includes nine stories:

* On Ice
* Dwelling in the Past
* Strong as a Rock
* By Invisible Hands
* One Last Bloom
* Thistle's Find
* Beyond the Banks of the River Seine
* Emotional Dues
* Burnt Black Suns

The book starts with a story called "On Ice" about an Arctic expedition that goes bad. The group finds the track of a small hominid that seems to be following them through the snow. The subtle fear in this story builds over time and ends with a horrifying conclusion.

Then came a shorter story, "Dwelling on the Past" about a man who suffered a great loss. He infiltrates a native group and comes across a terrifying find. This was probably my least favorite story. It was good but not amazing for me.

"Strong as a Rock" is about two brothers who go mountain climbing. Strantzas does a good job portraying the relationship between brothers and the place that they end up is unnerving and it reminded me of "The Hospice" by Aickman in some ways and the end was very disturbing.

"By Invisible Hands" originally appeared in The Grimscribe's Puppets and thus is reminiscent of Ligotti. It's about a puppet maker that gets a request from a mysterious Dr. Toth. I find puppets to be creepy so this story was especially frightening.

The novella, "One Last Bloom", was about a couple of PhD students who get a crate of samples. Their teacher who collected the samples though is missing. It's a great tale and is sort of like a scifi horror which I thought was neat.

"Thistle's Find" was a Ligotti-esque short story that was packed with weirdness and horror. The narrator visits an old neighbor (Dr. Thistle) who has made a discovery. Not sure what disturbed me more--Thistle's discovery or Thistle.

"Beyond the Banks of the River Seine" is a tale that originally appeared in the King in Yellow tribute, A Season in Carcosa. It's about a rivalry between two musicians in which one of them begins to descend into madness.

"Emotional Dues" was another great piece about an artist who gets tasked by an old man to create a painting. It's a longer story that does an excellent job of building a sense of strange until the climax where all hell breaks loose.

"Burnt Black Suns" was probably one of my favorite stories in this collection. It's about a father who is searching for his son. It starts kind of slow but then in the second chapter, it starts to build an excellent storyline starting with their visit to the heath. It reminded me of William Peter Blatty in some ways.

I'd recommend Burnt Black Suns to any horror or weird fiction fans. It's probably and quite likely the best single author collection of 2014.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent weird fiction! 9 Aug 2014
By "Seregil of Rhiminee" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Simon Strantzas' Burnt Black Suns is a collection of weird stories. It's the author's fourth short story collection (his previous collections are Beneath the Surface, Cold to the Touch and Nightingale Songs).

Burnt Black Suns is an excellent short story collection. It contains weird fiction stories that range from the modern Lovecraftian Thistle's Find to One Last Bloom that's pure scientific horror at its best and most effective.

I can honestly say that it's been a while since I've been this impressed by a weird fiction collection. I've read lots of weird fiction collections and I've enjoyed reading all of them, but collections like this one are rare, because all the stories in it are excellent and worth reading. There are no weak stories in this collection.

Burnt Black Suns contains the following nine stories (it also contains a foreword by Laird Barron):

- On Ice
- Dwelling on the Past
- Strong as a Rock
- By Invisible Hands
- One Last Bloom
- Thistle's Find
- Beyond the Banks of the River Seine
- Emotional Dues
- Burnt Black Suns

Simon Strantzas uses several classic weird fiction elements in a modern way in these stories. He writes creepy, disturbing and unsettling stories that can be categorized as weird fiction, horror and dark fantasy. He easily conjures up nightmarish images and visions that are difficult to forget, and shows his readers how the characters in his stories come face to face with unnatural and supernatural threats.

These stories are just like good old-fashioned weird fiction stories, because they're weird and unsettling stories. Some of them are creepy while others are disturbing - there's originality, creepiness and disturbing elements in them.

Here's a bit more information about the stories:

On Ice: A story about men who travel to Melville Island to explore fossils. The oil companies did a research there, but they weren't looking for rocks and didn't notice certain things. Some of the men feel that they're confined there. Soon they notice that something strange is going on there...

Dwelling on the Past: Harvey has lost his daughter, Emily, and works for the Henco Industries (his sorrow for Emily is handled well by the author). The Henco Industries have problems with the Six Nations protestors. The Six Nations have been digging for something that looks almost like a dwelling...

Strong as a Rock: Garrison and Rex are brothers who have lost their mother. Rex takes Garrison to climb rocks, because he loves rock climbing. When Garrison injures himself, they begin to search for a hospital...

By Invisible Hands: An old puppetmaker has sacrificed all for his puppets. He wishes that the end would come for him. Dr. Toth contacts him and he finds out that Dr. Toth has needs of his services...

One Last Bloom: A story about Randal and Olivia who work with Dr. Markowitz at the Microbiology Department. Randal and Olivia are worried about the missing Dr. Markowitz and Linden. Dr. Markowitz and Linden have supposedly died while doing underwater research. Soon things escalate into a scientific nightmare as Randal and Olivia begin to investigate what Dr. Markowitz sent them...

Thistle's Find: Owen is acquainted with Dr. Thistle and visits him when he's in trouble. The doctor shows Owen something that he's built...

Beyond the Banks of the River Seine: A story about Valise and Henri who are composers and friends. Valise is more successful than Henri. When Henri becomes obsessed with a project, Valise begins to worry about his friend...

Emotional Dues: An intriguing story about Girder and his paintings. Girder decides to approach Mr. Rasp directly and not throught the gallery, so he visits Mr. Rasp and shows him one of his paintings. When Mr. Rasp invites Girder to stay with him, things become weirder...

Burnt Black Suns: Noah and pregnant Rachel travel on the bus to Astilla de la Cruz. They're trying to find Noah's ex-wife, Sonia, and his son, Eli. When they arrive to their destination, the weather is hot. Noah and Rachel meet a priest who tells them of old gods and a cult, the Tletliztlii...

It's nice that Simon Strantzas has a talent for keeping the readers interested in his stories. He gradually builds tension and then shocks his readers with horrifying revelations. For example, the journey towards the end in the final story, Burnt Black Suns, is amazing and when the ending is reached, it's a brilliant and unforgettable ending.

Simon Strantzas writes fluently about love, loss, sorrow, melancholy and life in general. His descriptions of love, loss and sorrow portray skillfully how the characters feel about their loved ones and objects of affection. For example, in One Last Bloom the author writes well about Randal and how he feels about Olivia. In Beyond the Banks of River Seine the author writes longingly about Valise's feelings towards Elyse, and in Burnt Black Suns he writes about Noah's longing and desperate search for his son.

Simon Strantzas writes about relationships and difficult choices in a realistic and unflinching way. For example, in Burnt Black Suns the author writes perfectly about what kind of a strain Noah's search for his son causes on his relationship with Rachel. When Rachel asks Noah to make a choice between her and Eli, Noah acts in a desperate, but realistic way that reflects his feelings.

On Ice and Thistle's Find deserve a special mention, because they're wonderfully Lovecraftian stories. As a big fan of Lovecraftian stories (and stories containing Lovecraftian elements) I was delighted to read these stories, because they were excellent and unsettling stories. These stories differ greatly from each other, but they're both well written stories. On Ice is a perfectly written story about Arctic nightmare and what happens to the exploration team when they travel across the Arctic and find out that something's following them. Thistle's Find is a weird and disturbing story about Dr. Thistle and what he has built and brought into his house. Both of these stories are among the best Lovecraftian stories ever written.

I love the way Simon Strantzas writes about wilderness and nature. The characters in his stories travel across a harsh icy and snowy landscape, go mountain climbing and wander in the scorching desert where the sun burns relentlessly. His way of looking at nature and its forces feels both natural and threatening, because nature can be cruel and unforgiving and nobody can do anything to change that. People just have to be prepared to accept the harsh realities that come with travelling in the wilderness.

I find it interesting that the author writes about culture (music and paintings) in an intriguing way in two of his stories:

- Music plays an important role in Beyond the Banks of River Seine. It was interesting to read about Valise's success and how his friend wasn't as lucky as him when it came to music and composing. Reading about Henri's sudden change and obsession with his project was fascinating, because the project turned out to be a big surprise for Valise and others.

- Paintings play an important role in Emotional Dues, because it's a story about a painter called Girder and how he becomes acquainted with Mr. Rasp. Art is a way for Girder to address his emotions, so he paints what he feels. Mr. Rasp's pleasure in his paintings makes him happy, because nobody has ever called his works perfect. The author writes interestingly about the relationship between Girder and Mr. Rasp and the sudden turn it takes.

In the foreword Laird Barron mentions body horror. I agree with him on what he says about the foray into the realm of body horror, because body horror is strongly present in this collection. If there are readers who aren't familiar with body horror, I can mention that body horror is a subgenre of horror fiction in which horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body (decay, disease, mutation etc). There are a few scenes in these stories that reminded me of Clive Barker's bold descriptions of body horror and certain films directed by David Cronenberg.

It's great that Simon Strantzas writes unflinchingly about body horror and uses it effectively and in moderation, because there are authors who tend to use body horror elements too much and lose sight of what's important when they begin to describe the changes in human bodies. As an example of Simon Strantzas' ability to write body horror I can mention that it was fascinating to read what happened to Olivia in One Last Bloom.

Although the stories in this collection are modern stories, it's easy to see that the author has been greatly influenced by classic weird fiction and old horror stories. These stories owe a debt to the works of such authors as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Aickmann and Robert W. Chambers. It's possible to see that Thomas Ligotti and Ramsey Campbell have also affected the author's writing style.

There are many readers and a few authors who have said that this is the new golden age of dark fiction and weird fiction. I agree with this statement, because there are many authors who have published excellent horror and weird fiction stories during the last couple of years. This collection is a proof of this statement and its accuracy, because it's full of excellent stories.

Based on this collection I can say that Simon Strantzas is one of the best modern weird fiction authors. In my opinion he's equal to Laird Barron, Richard Gavin, Livia Llewellyn and Caitlín R. Kiernan, because his stories rival their stories. He's a master storyteller and deserves more recognition among horror and dark fantasy readers.

I have to mention that the cover art by Santiago Caruso looks great. It's one of the best cover images I've ever seen on weird fiction book covers.

Everybody who loves weird stories and weird fiction, should take a look at this collection and put it on their reading list. It's an excellent collection to dip into, because the creepy and weird stories offer both chills and thrills in equal measures to the readers. If you're looking for new weird fiction to read, please read this collection - you'll love it.

Highly recommended!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new favorite by Strantzas 8 July 2014
By M. Griffin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After I read Nightingale Songs, the prior collection of restrained and disquieting stories by Simon Strantzas, I found myself wondering what kind of work this author might creat with a more direct, less elliptical approach. His follow-up, Burnt Black Suns, answers that question.

Whether this change in direction arose from a natural drift in the author’s motivation, or a desire to prove he can successfully master new and different tricks, the stories here seem clearly designed to take a more straightforward approach than Strantzas has used previously. In particular, pieces like the opener “On Ice” and the titular closing novella hit so much harder as to seem almost the work of a different writer.

Not one story in the book is anything less than excellent, and the novella “Burnt Black Suns” is my single favorite thing Strantzas has written. This collection is a work of real excellence, which deserves to be read by everyone interested in intelligently crafted horror fiction.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gods of Elsewhere 20 Jun 2014
By C.M. Muller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The compulsion to read a book for a second time, directly after finishing its last page for the first, strikes me now and again. More often than not, however, I shy away from the impulse, only too aware of all the new offerings which lay in wait. Not so with "Burnt Black Suns". I simply had to re-examine these nine finely textured tales—and I am glad that I did, for they bloom even more darkly on the second go-round.

It is clear that Simon Strantzas has spent a substantial portion of his existence poring over the volumes that comprise the Library of Weird Fiction. Aickman, Barker, Klein, Ligotti, Lovecraft: these are just a few of the scribes who come to mind; their shades are here, dark gods whose strengths the author has transmuted into his own, into works powerful and new; carefully-crafted Horror, strong as rock.

"On Ice" — A group of scientists land on an island in the Arctic Ocean, searching for fossil evidence of ichthyosaur. “There is something worth finding no matter the cost,” says the expedition lead. What they discover shall not be revealed here, though a certain character name (Dogan) might point you in a possible direction. Strantzas does an excellent job creating a supremely chilling atmosphere of isolation, and it is obvious that he has done his research in the realm of arctic exploration.

"Dwelling on the Past" — A “fixer” named Harvey returns to his disreputable employer (Henco Industries) to settle a land dispute between it and indigenous protesters. The protests, however, are only a front for what is truly going on, as Harvey quickly discovers during his investigations. Both “fixer” and protesters dwell on the past in their own way, and that past is anything but cheerful. Strantzas excels here in relaying the horrors of memory, and how those memories can in time bury us.

"Strong as Rock" — Two brothers, polar opposites in personality, fill the void of their mother’s passing in their own unique ways. The adventurous Rex eventually lures Garrison out of his basement depression, believing that a rock-climbing expedition is just what they need in order to reconnect and “move on”. As one might suspect, Garrison can’t quite handle the climb and is injured in a fall—and from there the story grows increasingly surreal, as the brothers end up in a mysterious hospital in the middle of nowhere. The denouement is appropriately bleak and riffs nicely off said personalities.

"By Invisible Hands" — A supreme Thomas Ligotti tribute. On the surface we have a tale centering on an elderly puppet maker lamenting the passage of time and the fact that his skills have become obsolete. He is “a relic of a bygone age where creativity had value, and skill was paramount.” Out of the blue he receives a handwritten note from a mysterious figure named Dr. Toth, who seeks to commission the elder in fashioning a life-sized (and quite nightmarish) marionette. This is ouroboric fiction at its finest, with a mind-numbing conclusion that completely took this reader by surprise.

"One Last Bloom" — This begins prosaically enough, focusing upon two university students (Randal and Olivia) awaiting the return of their beloved Dr. Markowitz. The professor is off researching aquatic life that exists around a super-heated “vent” off the coast of Mexico; his hope is to gain a better understanding of the resiliency of said life and apply this knowledge to assist humankind when it one day ventures into deep space. When a package containing samples arrives ahead of Dr. Markowitz, the two researchers can’t resist opening what turns out to be a veritable Pandora’s Box. The implications of the professor’s discovery are terrifying, and the “monsters” which Strantzas has fashioned are quite literally ingenious.

"Thistle’s Find" — Reminiscent of Bob Leman’s classic “Window”, but narrated by Holden Caulfield. Strantzas does a fine job making the reader question whether the proceedings are real or mere fantasy as seen through the eyes of two damaged souls—in this case “Doctor” Thistle and the first-person narrator, Owen, who befriended the elder in his youth, against his parents wishes, and who now returns after a long interval. Even at tale’s end, one is left wondering whether the “find” is real or imagined (or a combination of both). This back and forth is quite unnerving, given the limited character history and the very real subject matter the author is bold enough to present.

"Beyond the Banks of the River Seine" — A fine historical piece centering around a pair of music students studying at the world-renowned Conservatoire in France. Valise, the narrator, recalls his best friend’s descent into madness and his subsequent (and meaningless) rise to fame after he transposes a certain diabolical play to music. This is a fine addition to the “yellow mythos" of the late Robert W. Chambers. Strantzas perfectly captures the seedy milieu of 19th century Paris, not to mention “lost” Carcosa.

"Emotional Dues" — This Barkeresque tale might well have been subtitled, “Portrait of the Artist as an Angry Young Man”. Shill is an emotionally damaged painter whose dark work attracts the attention of a wealthy patron named Elias Rasp. The corpulent and diseased Rasp entices Shill to take up residence in his palatial abode; all Shill need do is paint his emotionally-charged “masterpieces”. But the wheelchair-bound benefactor is not who he seems, and in time will become the “subject” of Shill’s final work. The ending is perfectly orchestrated and as captivating as watching Jackson Pollack fill his massive canvases, albeit with the lens of Horror affixed.

"Burnt Black Suns" — Noah and his pregnant girlfriend, Rachel, arrive in a small Mexican village, searching for his kidnapped child and the ex-wife who took him. The premise immediately brought to mind the very real struggles, a few years back, of David Goldman to retrieve his own son from Brazil. It also had the isolated and death-knell feel of the Spenser Tracy film, “Bad Day at Black Rock”. Most townsfolk want nothing to do with the couple, and it quickly becomes evident that no one can be trusted. The ending is an emotionally wrenching masterwork in itself, a “burnt offering” you will not soon forget. This is one of the most flawlessly conceived novellas, this side of T.E.D. Klein, that I have ever read.

"Burnt Black Suns" is an inspired and inspiring collection, one in which every story seems to out-perform the previous in some small way, so that by the time we set the book aside our perceptions have been altered to something as unnerving as the cover image which is our entry-point. While there were numerous aspects which impressed me about this collection (the writing was consistently excellent; the plots evolved with surety; the characters were fleshed out, or suited in flesh), I think perhaps what impressed me most was the author’s sheer ingenuity and finesse in regard to concluding his tales. This, as any writer knows, is no easy task. Strantzas (like the persistent and methodical creatures featured in a certain unnamed story from above) annihilates all past notions of Horror, making it seem so glisteningly fresh and new.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Fine Collection From Strantzas 14 Oct 2014
By S. P. Miskowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With his fourth collection of stories, Simon Strantzas combines a considerable talent for etching dreamlike landscapes, an appreciation for the tropes of cosmic horror, and a talent for pacing psychological suspense. The stories in this volume are perhaps his most immediately engrossing and accessible, without losing the poetic sensibility that distinguished his earlier work.

Most cosmic horror implies no safe places. The universe is slipping sideways and will swallow you here, now, or in another place, at another time. Strantzas' characters appear to have a slim chance at escape or redemption. They must interact with a dangerous world or retreat into themselves, and there's always the tantalizing possibility that retreat might make them safe. Yet the pain the characters have already endured spurs a desperate need for contact, understanding, or at least emotional release. More than physical annihilation itself, their tragedy is an intelligent and sensitive awareness of a terrible fate.

Highly recommended.
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