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Muse by James Renner #BookReview

This is our second review from Bill Mangione-Smith. You can find his first review This is How You Lose the Time War HERE and Bill is on Twitter at @realbillms.

The enclosed was transcribed from ten mini-cassette tapes that were recovered from the offices of Boston attorney William J. Latch following his disappearance on June 19, 2014. These tapes are part of the evidentiary record in the civil case of Latch V. Weymouth Life & Casualty. William J. Latch was declared dead by the State of Massachusetts in April 2015 after Magistrate Gavin FitzGerald reviewed these tapes, privately, in his chambers. Weymouth Life & Casualty was therein ordered to release Latch’s survivor’s benefits to his children. Latch’s body has never been found. His client, Michael Hadley, also remains missing…

Muse book cover

Title: Muse | Author: James Renner | Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications | Publication Date: 2019-May-19 | ISBN-13: 978-1587677052 | Pages: 122 | Language: English | Genre: Sci-Fi Horror | Content Warning: See After Review | Source: Self purchased | Starred Review

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Muse Review

I had been looking forward to reading this story since I pre-ordered from the original printing, but plans have a funny way of going sideways.  I don’t have a TBR pile but rather shelf, and if you take into account the Kindle titles waiting, well, it’s easy to lose track of what you really want to read.

When I said I wanted to do some reviewing for Sci-Fi and Scary, and Lilyn said there was more need for SF than horror, I suggested two time-travel novels that were also on my shelf calling out to me.  The first result was a long slog for a short book.  The second reading was abandoned, just not worth the time.  So now I sit here with Muse to think on.

I really like a lot about James Renner’s work.  “The Man From Primrose Lane” was terrific fun.  “The Great Forgetting”, not so much, but it had interesting ideas going for it.  Muse is now far and away my favorite Renner work.  Thanks for breaking my losing streak, James.

Much like “This is How You Lose the Time War”, Muse is very self-aware.  It is a story told in a very colloquial manner from a first person’s point of view, exactly like “At the Mountains of Madness”.  Aspects of that story play into this one quite a bit.  A number of historical figures and events come into the narrative.  At one point the narrator refers to “A story within a story within a story in a room of mirror until I lose myself.”  This is a horror-filled book about creativity and storytelling and compulsion, not metaphorical but literal. 

There were just a few editing issues that hooked me and should have been polished out.  Nothing major, but an offer for $20k turns into an offer for $3k in about two paragraphs. And the story revolves around the North East with Portland, Maine getting mentioned a lot, but just as Portland.  Given a very early reference to Oregon that was just needlessly confusing.  But at the same time, this was supposed to be transcribed cassette tapes, so maybe I should just chalk both of those up to an old man’s memory not being very good. 

This would be a 5-star recommendation but for two reasons.  The first is it just feels like those should be flawless works.  Muse is wonderful, but perhaps not at that level.  The second is the appearance of a real-world character that just seemed like Renner was goofing too much.  If you know what I mean, and if you read Muse you will.  But I’ll leave the name out so that you can enjoy the appearance when he pops up like a wolf on the hunt.

Muse currently has three reviews on Amazon, all 5 stars.  It should have many more.  It’s possible that when I go back and cross-post this review down the road I’ll give it a bump up so that the scoring is unanimous.  Highly recommended.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads; however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Content Warning:

A pedophile appears as a minor character, but only the barest of reference to any act, and justice is served

Published inHorror Book ReviewsStarred Reviews
©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
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