Blog Tour: The Influence by Ramsey Campbell

Today I’m kicking off the RandomThingsTour blog tour for The Influence by Ramsey Campbell.

‘The wall felt chill and gritty, yet it made her think of softened flesh. She recoiled before she had time to gasp, but the sensations clung to her, swarmed through her.’

Synopsis: Queenie is the ageing matriarch of the Faraday family,and even death can’t break her hold over her eleven-year-old granddaughter Rowan. She’s buried with a locket that contains a lock of Rowan’s hair and by the time anyone sees what effect the ghostly influence on Rowan is having, it may be too late for her.

This was one creepy read. I have never read any of Ramsey Campbell’s work prior to this and I’m very intrigued now. The writing is haunting while managing to create a disctinct atmosphere that makes me feel like I’ve actually been to Wales.

As mentioned, the book moves between Wales and Liverpool but the most distinct locations are the Wales and the house the novel takes place in. Queenie is such a bitter malevolent person that her spirit has infected the house. I’m referring to when she is alive by the way. The house is riddled with damp and rot with barely functioning electricity. I honestly hated every second of being in it, it reminded me of a mildewy house left to die while still having someone live there.

I am still in awe of the atmosphere that Campbell has created. When we are in Wales during the course of the novel its described so well I felt like I was there. Especially when Campbell is describing the damp weather and the rain that seems to cling to everything. There are so many creepy moments that take place in the dark in drizzly, wet conditions during the winter months and that is the weather at the moment in Ireland so it felt very real.

Queenie is a prime example of how age and time are nothing against the sheer iron will of someone who refuses to be triumphed by anything or anyone. In this case it’s literal death. I think everyone knows a woman who would remind them of Queenie, I know I did while reading and honestly put me in the same position of Rowan. I felt a very personal connection to what Rowan was going through with trying to figure out where she fit between her parents, her aunt Hermione and Queenie. I was very like Rowan at her age so I felt very protective of her during the whole book.

Something I felt that was an indication of the strength of Campbell’s writing was if the haunting was taken away, I would still find this book very creepy. Between the atmosphere, the unsettling house and just the sheer tension within this family I would still be very unsettled reading this.

Outside of the supernatural, Campbell brings up some very scary real life things that also add to the dread. There is a relative who is a paedophile , moments of claustrophobia and children with terminal ilnesses. Campbell manages to hold up a mirror to our society so we can see the true dangers out there for children. Legacy is a big theme in this novel and its influence (see what I did there?).

I highly recommend this book to any horror fans. This book was originally published in 1989 and won several awards back when it was first published and now has been adapted for Netflix in Spanish.

★★★★/5

About the Auhor:

Ramsey Campbell was born in Liverpool in 1946 and still lives on Merseyside. The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes him as “Britain’s most respected living horror
writer”. He has been given more awards than any other writer in the field, including the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association, the Living Legend Award of the International Horror
Guild and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thank you once again to Anne and Flame Tree Press for this fantastic opportunity and for sending me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This is How You Lose the Time War- Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone Review

‘ If the planet lasted long enough, the vines that sprout from the corpse’ mouths would grow berries.’

So just a quick note to begin, my heart. It is in pieces. I bought this after seeing it being discussed on Tor.com and intended on reading it in Dublin but I only got round to it last weekend. And for such a short work I have to say it is very powerful.

The world is dying. Among the dead is the two warring factions of the Agency and Garden. On a future battle field an agent of the Agency finds a letter saying ‘Burn before reading.’ What begins as an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents begins to develop into an unlikely friendship that slowly evolves into something that threatens both sides of the war. But could this change both past future? Could a potential love between two enemies save time itself? Wars have to be won, both are willing to die for it, but what about each other?

I have found recently that novellas and other shorter works of both science fiction and fantasy have been better at conveying a larger plot than longer, more epic publications within the genre. This one is no different and proves that a short work doesn’t have to be heavily edited and that a larger plot can definitely function within a tighter narrative. The war we see between both sides and that both our characters, Red and Blue respectively, is not only taking place in the future but also in the past. Agents are sent across ‘threads’ of time to braid and unbraid these strands of time. Both sides seek to gain the upper hand on the other by undoing and changing different actions both take throughout the threads of history, and I really liked that. It is definitely a world we recognise and live in, or at least was with elements from the past definitely being part of human history so it isn’t heavy on world building.

This is a character driven story and we meet very few characters besides Red and Blue and we really don’t need to. This is about them and is driven by their letters to and from each other. The letters begin as a taunt from Blue towards Red and watching them get to know each other was so wonderful. Both characters are discussed using she/her pronouns so this is a queer love story. The names that both the characters call each other at the start of each letter (Red, in tooth, in claw, Blue-da-ba-dee etc) really entertained me and these aren’t your paper envelope letters either. Blue and Red need to hide their letters from both sides and letters are found in lava formations, seeds to be cracked on the receivers tongue and in a birds wing to name a few.

The format of the text really helps keep a steady, busy plot that kept me constantly engaged. The few times I put the book down I was worried for both Red and Blue and kept wondering what was happening. Each chapter changes between both points of view and each chapter has and ends with a letter from one to the other. The imagery and the language are stunning aswell. The whole plot carries one big feeling of paranoia for these two but also keeps the romance the grows slowly between the 2 so private it feels like the reader is almost a voyeur within their world.

Without spoiling the ending, we get to avoid the usual harmful issues that are commonly in queer love stories while also getting a sense that this is a very natural and tender experience for both the characters and the reader. If this isn’t up for the Hugo’s next year I may cause a riot. Now if you don’t mind, I need to go fill the hole in my heart this book left.