The Worst Reviews of the Best Books: Part 2 of 12

Welcome to my complete lack of objectivity and creepily plagiaristic response to some of the amazing books I’ve read this year. I’m offering the disclaimer that I rarely review books now that I (attempt to) write them, because:

  1. I’m a moody reader. Maybe I don’t give a shit about how much you loved that perfect person who dumped you one moonlit summer night during your youth. Hit me up tomorrow. With bourbon.
  2. I can’t help “shopping” – aka guessing what you’re going to do and twisting your ideas to inform my own work. (In the world of visual art, everything’s been done before. We don’t sweat about stealing.)
  3. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially a writer who’s craft I admire. I’m not reviewing at random. Assume five stars if I talk about a book here.

Without further ado, join me in butchering the reputations of some of my favorite people who wrote books this year! You all know the big name authors, so here’s my selection of a few books by working writers who care deeply about the craft that I’m keeping my eyes on.

“The Brides of Hanover Block” by Gregor Xane did not go where I expected in the manner I expected. Which is, of course, why I avidly devour Xane’s work!

Please, for the love of god, with sugar on top: Surprise me.

First, let me be clear that this thing reads like a downhill bicycle race. If you start the book, you will be inexorably compelled to finish it as fast as inhumanly possible. I once “picked up” a book by Gregor Xane to read a chapter before work and I was two hours late.

In contrast to the first book in the Hanover Quartet, the mental landscape of “Brides” feels far more external and expansive. This was not enjoyable for me, because the mournful privacy of the first book, “The Hanover Block,” won me over. I felt instantly attached to the broody main character and concerned for his fate. The ending left me emotionally desolate. “Gregor, how could you do this to me?” I screamed into the void, shaking my palsied, broody fists. The void didn’t scream back. Neither did Gregor.

“Brides” presents a contrasting extroverted world. I get that it’s a woman thing to be communal and connected and active. Some of my best friends have been activists. Some still are. And they can be absolutely, utterly exhausting.

So that’s my problem. I didn’t identify with the titular brides. They reminded me of some of the worst people I’ve met. Not the activists, but the constantly connected pushy faux feminists. The Brides are the modern self-made Stepford wives of the suburbs who fit the fifties housewife mold despite their rhetoric of independence. There’s something so bondage-y about chic tans and curated bodies, don’t you think? Even with backstories trying a bit too hard (I thought) to elicit empathy, I didn’t feel for them. I didn’t like them.

This is black humor, right? So why am I being such a bitch about it? Well, I’m a colossal bitch, but not like that, not like them.

I’m sure you aren’t either. I’m sure none of us would really go as far as the Brides go to preserve unlimited access to complete and total gratification…

How far would you go?

A good question in any context. A perfect horror question. You can’t avoid considering the question as the book progresses into deeper and more distasteful darkness. Whether or not you like the brides, you find yourself asking, How far?

I’m much more interested in questions than in answers. In this strangulating binary world that Xane has created for the Hanover Quartet, I’m eager to know where he’s going with the third and fourth installments of the series. The fact that I don’t know what to expect makes me a very happy reader.

If I were programming Gregor’s brain, for the next installment he’d give us some sweet alien abortions, or blast all the gender norms into space as far as Aldebaran in the Hyades. Maybe he won’t do what I want and I’ll write my own answer to his series called “The Paracervical Block.”

Consider this a warning, Mr. Xane.

I wonder, how far will I go?

Read the shocking and perverse story of whatever-the-fuck genre this is here: “The Brides of Hanover Block”

Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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