Welcome to Area X. Ecologically pristine. Cut off from civilization. Hostile to humans. What lurks there? Does it have a name? Will you live to tell a Welcome to Area X. Ecologically pristine. Cut off from civilization. Hostile to humans. What lurks there? Does it have a name? Will you live to tell about what you've seen? Who will believe you?
If one can be said to "do" weird, then I don't think I do it very well. Annihilation -- the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy -- is Weird with a capital 'W' with its roots in H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood. It has a post-modern mindfuck vibe as well reminiscent of House of Leaves.
That is to say, there were parts of this book that worked really well for me (especially the first half). I felt the epic creep and that twisting, squirming sense of dread of what I couldn't see, of what was lurking right in the corner of my eye. But as with most Weird fiction I've tried, there was a lot of "huh?" and a growing sense of impatience that acts like a maddening itch I can't scratch.
Ever sit on a sneeze that just won't happen for more than 15 minutes? Yeah, kinda like that. Or put another way, lots of really great, thoughtful foreplay that does not deliver on that big finish (I'm a fan of the big finish. The journey is nice and all but I need to know there is a final destination and that there will be fireworks when I get there, that this all means something. I hate ambiguity. It is not my friend).
This book is also well-written. If you are a fan of the word-smithing and an author who is in complete control of creating mood and atmosphere then this is something you might want to check out. There are scenes that practically pulse with claustrophobia and paranoia. The dread is definitely present and some of the reveals are quite shocking and satisfying. I just needed more. What should have been leading towards a crashing climax and a crescendo of realizations simply just....peters out with a whimper, instead of delivering on the bang. Did I mention how much I love the bang?
For you Weird aficionados out there and fans of the unreliable narrator (I'm primarily looking at you mark monday) you might want to give this a second look. ...more
I had some idea what to expect when I picked up the late Michael Crichton's sci-fi thriller Sphere because I'd seen the movie years ago -- a movie I l I had some idea what to expect when I picked up the late Michael Crichton's sci-fi thriller Sphere because I'd seen the movie years ago -- a movie I love by the way despite a lot of lambasting from the critics and grumbling from the book's fans. Sure it isn't perfect (with its moments of cheese and flubs); nevertheless, the exciting, chilling core of Crichton's story is evident and for me the film still stands as a great example of escapist cinema, that mesmerizing addictive blend of science fiction and horror.
But I'm probably more forgiving than most. One of my favorite movie genres is space horror. There's something about the claustrophobic squeeze of the 'group in peril' scenario as it hurtles through the freezing, oxygenless void of space where no one can hear you scream. Or the imperiled stranded on an uninhabited, hostile planet where the very environment wants to kill you -- Alien, Aliens, Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Event Horizon, and Pitch Black just to name a few.
Sphere is not set in space, but it might as well be. It takes the reader deep into the darkest part of the ocean where unfathomable pressure forces threaten to crush and demolish, where the only breathable oxygen is what you bring with you, where the landscape is as alien and inhospitable as anything found in outer space.
A thriller should thrill. It should keep you turning the pages long into the night, white-knuckled and on the edge of your seat. Horror should unsettle and disturb you, compelling you to look over your shoulder and under the bed for that unnamed threat. Science fiction should challenge your concept of reality, bending your mind to what's possible, to what could actually be. In Sphere Crichton is firing on all cylinders as a storyteller, accomplishing all three of these seemingly without any effort at all.
It's such a treat to see an author in this much control of his narrative. I read this compulsively, voraciously, rarely coming up for air. I can only imagine the inexorable tension I would have experienced had I not seen the movie and therefore knew most of what to expect. Even so, the whole experience remained thrilling and deliciously unnerving. The pacing is pitch perfect, each devastating reveal coming at the exact right moment. Who or what "Jerry" is becomes a maddening puzzle, his voice and demeanor as terrifying and memorable as HAL 9000....more
What a nasty piece of work this turned out to be living as it does at the seedy intersection of pulp and pornography, violence and depravity. I though What a nasty piece of work this turned out to be living as it does at the seedy intersection of pulp and pornography, violence and depravity. I thought I was a big girl and could handle stepping over the borderline into such dark corners, but this one shook me up quite a bit and left me feeling a bit sick and dirty. The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt after watching Requiem for a Dream.
I blithely walked into this one expecting a lighter, fluffier piece of pulp fiction -- an exaggerated "put your lips together and blow" Hollywood-style noir. Instead I got closer to a Larry Flynt fantasy than I ever wanted to get in this life. Kemper perfectly describes the experience this way:
This is a solid little piece of pulp with an edgy nastiness to it, like popping a piece of candy in your mouth and finding out it was actually a hunk of broken glass.
Yup. And I can still taste the blood.
So giving this a star rating is tough. I didn't enjoy it and found most of the story and the characters vile and despicable. However, the fact that I was so unsettled and left feeling so out of sorts is a testament to Block's ability as a writer. I'm really, really happy he found another way to make his living as a novelist however. ...more
Whoah. This is some really good shit. Color me very impressed. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up, but it totally de4.5 stars
Whoah. This is some really good shit. Color me very impressed. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up, but it totally delivered on tension and suspense, a palpable dread, and a suffocating sense of doom.
Just as a launching off point I'm going to throw two pop culture references at you that I couldn't stop thinking about while reading this book. The first is the music video "Just" by Radiohead. Remember that's the one where there's this guy who just lies down in the street for no apparent reason and when this other guy starts screaming for a reason why he's done this and when the man finally tells him, everyone who is in earshot lies down too, as if whatever he's said is just too huge and overwhelming for the mind to process that the only human response is to collapse.
The second reference I'm going to throw at you is a Twilight Zone episode from the '80s called "Need to Know" where everyone starts going insane in this small town and it's eventually discovered that the source of the problem is not a physical disease, but an idea, a single short phrase, that is being passed from person to person by word of mouth. That horrible phrase is nothing more or less than the purpose and meaning of existence; the moral of the story being -- Knowledge we are not ready to receive will drive us mad.
I freaking love that Radiohead video and I was twelve years old when I saw that Twilight Zone episode and it scared the crap out of me (which is Trudi speak for I loved it). So in a lot of ways I was already primed to love this book where a mysterious pandemic plague is causing the "infected" to go on homicidal killing sprees before killing themselves. In the escalating chaos and confusion, the source of the infection is identified as having seen something the human mind cannot fathom, a creature that is so beyond our comprehension we are literally driven mad by it. But who is to know for sure, since no one has survived to confirm what it is that they saw.
Your only defence is to close your eyes, and keep them closed.
Humans hide in houses behind windows that are painted, covered with blankets or boarded up. They dare not venture outside for water or food unless they are blindfolded. If you thought surviving the end of days was tough with all of your faculties and sight, try doing it completely blind and feeling hunted and watched the entire time.
I love survival stories of all kinds: but an apocalypse scenario where the group must survive together is my favorite. And it's done so well here, I really can't stress that enough. The way the tension builds gradually as the unknowable threat outside the doors of the safe house becomes more menacing and tangible. How so much is implied rather than relying on big gushy scenes of gore and explicit violence. How the daily trek to the well blindfolded to get fresh water becomes an exercise in exquisite pulse-pounding suspense to unnerve the most steely-nerved of all readers.
Did you hear that? Sssshhhhh. I think it came from behind you. Whatever you do, don't open your eyes.
Readers who have a perpetual desire for answers and reasons may find the lack of explanation here troubling. I didn't. I was okay that we really don't know what the hell is going on and can only guess (and imagine our worst fears). If something like this ever goes down for real we'll be just as much in the dark as the characters in Bird Box discovering we are as much at the mercy of our ignorance and fear of the unknown as anything that may or may not be hunting us. ...more
Bees are exceptional creatures. Their hive characterized by drama and high stakes, intelligence and a sophisticated organization that is a marvel to s Bees are exceptional creatures. Their hive characterized by drama and high stakes, intelligence and a sophisticated organization that is a marvel to study and behold. For all its beauty and the tantalizing production of golden, luxurious honey, the bee life comes at a high price -- an existence propped up by slavery and the hive mind. There shall be only one Queen and no original thought. Accept. Obey. Serve. It's Orwell's 1984 in the flesh, Thought police and Big Brother included. Deformity means death and is ruthlessly stamped out in a strive for purity that rivals Hitler's attempts at Eugenics in the creation of a genetically homogenous Aryan Master race.
I was excited to read this book. I needed no convincing that bees could be the stars of their own literary masterpiece in much the same way rabbits became legend in Watership Down. Growing up one of my favorite movies was The Secret of NIMH, a movie I love to this day. I bring it up now because it did what The Bees does not, and that made all the difference for me in my level of involvement and enjoyment of this novel.
NIMH (based on this classic children's book) is an animal fantasy that anthropomorphizes rats and mice to tell a harrowing adventure tale. For me as a child, and even now as an adult, the movie strikes a perfect balance between "humanizing" the animals enough so that the drama soars, yet still allowing their animal natures and the laws of the natural world around them to shine through.
While The Bees is a beautifully written book, with scenes that are quite lovely in their composition, I felt the author lacked conviction and an overall commitment to just what kind of story she was telling. At times, the bees are very humanized. At other times, they feel alien and unknowable. This back and forth and hesitation ultimately prevented me from ever truly bonding with any of the characters. I was emotionally shut out of the story even when my reader brain was fascinated by some of the details contained therein. For that reason, the story dragged in many places.
If you have a personal curiosity of bees, the detailed portrait the author offers here of hive life may indeed appeal to you. She has done her research, and there is definitely poetry contained in some of the pages of this book and in scenes that deal with the harsh realities of the natural world and the strict laws of bee existence.
This is a book you read with your brain, not your heart. ...more
This is a must for Constant Readers (otherwise known as those rabid Stephen King fans). It is an "origin story" of sorts capturing King's first glimps This is a must for Constant Readers (otherwise known as those rabid Stephen King fans). It is an "origin story" of sorts capturing King's first glimpse with his author's eye of that notorious (and perhaps greatest of all villains) -- Randall Flagg, who has about a thousand faces and many names including the Walkin' Dude or if it please ya: the man in black who fled across the desert.
"The Dark Man" is a poem which King penned while in college and it shouldn't surprise me that a character who would come to such prominence in King's later writing began manifesting himself like a not-to-be ignored spectral presence very early on.
i have stridden the fuming way / of sun-hammered tracks and / smashed cinders; / i have ridden rails / and burned sterno in the gantry silence of hobo jungles: / i am a dark man
King has said his first visions of Flagg were of a faceless man dressed in cowboy boots, jeans, and a denim jacket forever walking the roads an exile, an outsider, but a malevolent presence nevertheless. "The Dark Man" is a peek into that evil, a poem that is a confession of murder and rape.
The poem itself is an eerie melange of images, sounds and smells. Swampy and decayed. A world that has moved on even. Coupled with Chadbourne's artwork, the result is a moving and unsettling collaboration that can be poured over many times uncovering details and nuances previously missed.
Well worth the purchase price and killing a tree to own this one.
3) Last but not least, the author's blog post entitled: God Bless Librarians. In case you didn't know, flattery will get you everywhere, and it just might make me read your book (joking! I'm really not that shallow or vain, I promise; I just thought it was a nice post).
This is a beautiful book that hits a lot of my kinks: small towns, seeecrets, family drama, and coming-of-age. Krueger's storytelling style was reminiscent for me of some of Stephen King's best work (when he's not trying to scare the bejesus out of us that is). Krueger's two main protagonists are young brothers -- Frank (13) and Jake (10).
Frank is hitting adolescence hard with a penchant for doing things he's not supposed to and an even worse habit for eavesdropping. Jake is his quiet sidekick who likes to listen and observe more than run his mouth because he is plagued by an awful stutter. As they run around small town 1961 Minnesota all the best elements of King's novella "The Body" are present. It will be a summer of tragedy and innocence lost.
Where it missed that fifth star I will put under a spoiler tag:
(view spoiler)[I saw the ending/twist coming a mile away, and it's not like me to "figure these things out" which probably means the author was not trying to hide it, but rather have the readers be in the know and sweat it out. I appreciate that, but I felt to have the jealous, mentally challenged sister kill in a moment of blind rage was too predictable in a very Gothic "woman in the attic" way.
It was interesting to introduce the element of racism as it applied to Native Americans in Minnesota in 1961, but I felt at times the reading came too close to mimicking To Kill a Mockingbird in that one respect and that Frank's dad was very Atticus Finch in a preacher's garb rather than a lawyer's suit. (hide spoiler)]
But these are VERY small quibbles in what is a gripping story, wonderfully told. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Child narrators under the age of 10 are tricky to say the least. It can be so easily flubbed and come off as gimmicky or inauthentic. Mostly, I'm not Child narrators under the age of 10 are tricky to say the least. It can be so easily flubbed and come off as gimmicky or inauthentic. Mostly, I'm not a fan. Louis CK's rant about children and their secrets beautifully sums up the why for me.
So this book, with its five-year old narrator Anna, is going to fail or succeed depending on your acceptance of the childish, stream-of-consciousness storytelling style. Anna is in the grips of some nasty peril after just losing both her parents to a bear mauling. What's more, she is saddled with the responsibility of her baby brother Stick, aged 2. Anna's point of view is limited by what she knows and what she is able to articulate (for the record, not a whole lot). There's repetition and tangent after tangent. As with any child, you must have patience. You'll get all the information you need eventually, it just might take a while to get there.
Anna's voice grew on me, it really did. She's bratty and self-absorbed like any young kid, but also sweet and funny and brave. Her thorny relationship with her baby brother is heart-wrenching at times, the way she hates him and loves him in equal contradicting measure. There is tension here and a palpable suspense as we watch two hapless babes in the woods stumble from one threat to another -- sunburn, dehydration, poison ivy, and of course, the black bear who may or may not still be stalking them (and who continues to feed on their parents).
This is one of those books you're just going to have to try and see for yourself whether Anna's voice makes you want to keep reading, or throw the book across the room as if it had cooties. Either reaction is possible.
Some spoilers ahead under the spoiler tag:
(view spoiler)[I'm not certain the dramatic back story of the affair and Anna's parents separation was really necessary. I felt this domestic conflict didn't add much to the story other than to reinforce the on-going theme of the "family unit" and Anna's "we are four", "we are two", "I am one" interpretation.
Anna's months of silence after her ordeal and her long road to recovery was interesting. She was obviously much more traumatized by events than her initial telling of the story would have us believe. The trauma definitely lingers since she is haunted by a nightmare for the rest of her life of getting mauled by a bear.
Two scenes made me tear up:
At the end when Anna and Stick curl up by the front door waiting for "Daddy" to come home.
I look at the door too. It is closed. When the door is open, there is the backyard and then my tree and then the gate where Daddy comes in. He is not home from work. It stays shut and so Stick came down to see if Daddy came and fell asleep.
When Anna and Stick are grown, they revisit the site of the accident. Anna lies in the grass where she is certain her mother took her last breath.
Lying on the ground I can see him. And that's when I know that Mom could see us. If she was still conscious when she was lying here, and if her eyes were open, she would have seen me luring Alex into the canoe....Maybe she saw that I got into the canoe after him and started to paddle with my hands. Maybe she knew that we got away.
I thought that was a lovely note to end on. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Magical realism and I have a very standoffish, disinterested relationship. We have never gotten along, and we tend to avoid each other like the plague Magical realism and I have a very standoffish, disinterested relationship. We have never gotten along, and we tend to avoid each other like the plague at parties. So despite some very beautiful five star reviews I knew this book probably wasn't going to resonate with me the way it has for others. And it didn't.
It is quite the provocative, unusual, sensory read. Yes. This book engages the senses. All of them. And it is terribly sad. Incredibly violent. Unforgettably dark. There's the soul crushing awareness of grief and love and love lost. For all of that, I should have been hugely emotionally invested but I remained rather detached through the whole experience. Maybe that says more about me than the book, that my heart responds more to realism than it does to magic. Maybe at a different time, this would have been the exact right book.
This wasn't that time.
It should also be said, this isn't a book for sensitive readers. There are two distinctly disturbing scenes, the second of which I was not prepared to encounter at all. In fact, it sideswiped me utterly and I felt that nothing that had come before it hinted at this destination. A part of me admires the author for such a bold choice; another part of me feels a bit exploited.
I do feel I was given an uplifting ending however, and after the ordeal of the journey, this was much appreciated by this reader bumping The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender from two stars to a very respectable three.
If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, m If the plethora of J-horror coming out of Japan the last 15 years hasn't convinced you of the country's own unique brand of crazy pants in the best, most entertaining way, then this book will. And there's a movie! Which I now have to hunt down.
Because crazy pants, did I mention? So much crazy pants.
This isn't horror, but it is really messed up. It's a revenge tale about screwed up, damaged narrators who each get to tell a piece of the story, so you won't have all the pieces of the puzzle until the very end.
No one is likable. If you are a reader who wants an emotional story and characters that you can relate to, then skip this one.
But if you're like me, and you like the crazy pants, then definitely check this one out.
I want to make sure that my three stars don't discourage any curious readers away from this genuinely sweet, fun read. Three stars means I liked it, a I want to make sure that my three stars don't discourage any curious readers away from this genuinely sweet, fun read. Three stars means I liked it, and I did very much.
The Rosie Project falls firmly into the Rom-Com genre, is very cinematic (and yes, fairly predictable in its execution), but despite its flirty familiar territory it's WELL WORTH giving over an afternoon of reading. Don Tillman is a delightful, unusual narrator -- though he did keep reminding me of Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets (a movie I love).
This is the book you reach for when you're craving something smart but uncomplicated, funny and compelling that delivers all the feels of a safe, happy ending. ...more
This whole book left me stupid happy and deliriously impressed and I spent most of my time declaring:
Jesse would have loved Mark Watney. I lo4.5 stars
This whole book left me stupid happy and deliriously impressed and I spent most of my time declaring:
Jesse would have loved Mark Watney. I love Mark Watney. He's super smart but not just in a poindexter nerd alert bookish kind of way. Watney's got some serious problem solving skills; he's McGyver in a space suit. Give this guy a toothpick, some tinfoil and a ziplock bag and he'll build you an airplane. But don't forget the duct tape. Duct tape is awesome and I will be putting in a supply of it in order to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Watney is also a funny, the glass is half-full kind of guy who gets repeatedly knocked on his ass but finds a way to get right back up again. And who doesn't love a fighter?
The Martian is being referred to as Cast Away in space and that's pretty accurate as those things go. It's definitely an adventure survival story (my favorite kind), and just like Tom Hanks, Watney finds himself stranded and completely alone. The only difference is rather than washing up on a deserted island with a plethora of unopened FedEx packages, Watney finds himself abandoned on Mars with....well, you'll have to read the book to find out.
There's a lot of geeked out science descriptions, but I found most of it to be pretty accessible, even to a softcore sci-fi gal like myself. There's a real balance and warmth to the story as Watney battles with the unforgiving Mars environment that wants to kill him every time he turns around. It's thrilling and edge of your seat stuff with lots of laughs built in to break the inexorable tension.
It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label has become so loosey-goosey all that's required is that there be a teen protagonist. Content, language, themes -- all of the meatier, important elements of any book are blithely ignored in the rush to market and movie deals.
There are definitely books that walk the hinterland -- the very, very outer reaches of YA and upon reading them you realize that there's way more 'Adult' in the pages than 'Young'. On any given Sunday it shouldn't really matter ....except for when it does. In the case of Scowler it makes me think about how many people will ignore it and miss out turned off by its YA label, and then it makes me think about the young teen readers who will lack the emotional maturity and mental resilience to process such a dark and disturbing tale.
Yes, it's that good and that dark. Patriarch Marvin Burke is as chilling and disturbing a villain as any I've encountered and belongs in the pages of a Frank Bill novel. The language is vibrant and pulsing -- a living, breathing thing:
The cracks in the dirt now yawned to proportions slutty with thirst...
There it was. A miracle, really, finding this speck of bone in a world of dust. There was a brown spot of blood on the tooth's root, and to Ry it seemed the encapsulation of the bum deal of life: a once-perfect thing plucked and bloodied and tossed to the dirt.
I had originally shelved this as 'horror' but am now removing it because while Scowler is horrific in parts, it has much more in common with realistic, gritty fiction that has a psychological underbelly.