I love to be scared and suspended in a state of heebie-jeebies. I crave the dread, succumbing to the paranoia and to that always elusive (but much des...more I love to be scared and suspended in a state of heebie-jeebies. I crave the dread, succumbing to the paranoia and to that always elusive (but much desired) sensation of epic creep. I don't mind when authors reach for the gross out (that's all fine for a good bit of schlocky fun); but where horror's beating heart really lies -- where it lives and breathes in the darkened shadows -- is in the dread and creep. That's how it all began with Gothic fiction. Those are its roots baby, and on some primal level as voracious consumers of the tale, this is still what we crave when we ask somebody to "tell us a scary story".
Of course, horror by its very nature and definition is extremely fluid and subjective (I would argue the most subjective of all the genres). What scares and unsettles us is so specific to the individual. Horror can be, and often is, in the eye of the beholder. It's an emotion that happens in the nervous system, not the brain. Horror can be smart and demanding of its reader/viewer, but the desired experience is to feel during and think later.
I'm always on the hunt for the next thing that's going to scare the pants off me. Over the years, there have been long dry spells. I'm getting older, and more critical. I don't scare as easy as I used to and most of my horror consumption of late has been of the film kind, not the book kind. That doesn't mean I stop looking.
I'm always looking.
When a co-worker brought I Remember You to my attention, I was intrigued. It was in translation from Icelandic. I had never read anything by an Icelandic author before and this particular one was being touted as terrifying. So I took a chance, and I'm really glad I did. This is a ghost story, and like a lot of the best ghost stories, there is a mystery that demands to be solved.
I Remember You is a duel narrative that switches off every chapter. The first narrative is of three friends who travel to a remote abandoned village in Iceland. Their plan is to renovate a property there and make it a travel destination for those seeking natural beauty and escape. From the first moments of their arrival, the friends begin to notice strange occurrences. As the days pass, things get stranger and more frightening as the group realize they are trapped with no easy escape.
The second narrative follows a doctor whose son disappeared three years previously. His body was never found and the loss continues to torment him and his estranged wife. As the chapters flip back and forth (often ending on a cliffhanger), the tension and stakes ratchet up accordingly. The two dueling narratives eventually collide and combine in a most satisfying way. This isn't a fast-paced story. It takes its time. Each reveal meant to be savored.
I recommend reading this late at night, preferably with the wind howling high and loud outside your window and if the lights should flicker, well -- don't be alarmed. It's just the wind.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It's moody and atmospheric and creepy as all hell in parts. This would make a fantastic movie (I'm going to betray my reader heart here and say it would probably make a better movie than book). I love ghost stories on film and if you love any of the following movies, you will probably love this book.
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...more 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. (less)
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...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 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.(less)
Here marks the concluding final volume of the original Dark Tower adaptation by Marvel comics and to say it's left me feeling underwhelmed is quite th...more Here marks the concluding final volume of the original Dark Tower adaptation by Marvel comics and to say it's left me feeling underwhelmed is quite the understatement. It turns out to be a confusing mish-mash of stories that barely connect to what's come before. The first two chapters are spent on Sheemie and the Breakers and strive to explain the birth of the Tower, its crucial importance and the forces who wish to see it destroyed. This is major Dark Tower sacred canon that took King decades to build and make believers of us all. To see it watered down in the final volume like this doesn't sit well with me and strikes me as rushed and lazy.
Then we're offered another adventure of young Roland and his original ka-tet which is followed up by a re-telling of the legend of Arthur Eld and his defeat of Lord Perth (a kind of lame David and Goliath type deal that I can't remember well enough from the books to know whether any liberties were taken with the source material or not).
As much as I was stupid excited for this graphic novel adaptation, I was slow to warm up to the series; in fact I skipped over Volumes 3, 4, and 5 and didn't pick up the series again until Volume 6 The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins. That's mostly because those first five volumes draw almost exclusively upon material from Book 4 of King's series -- Wizard and Glass. I'm much more a fan of long, tall and ugly Roland, than young Roland and his original ka-tet comprised of Cuthbert, Alain and Jamie. So while the series did get better for me as it went along -- especially The Battle of Tull and The Way Station -- there were way more lows than highs. Way more places where they got it wrong than right.
However, despite my lack of fangirling at this point, I'm deliriously excited by this news; the Dark Tower adaptation is continuing this fall with The Drawing of The Three: The Prisoner. Now we're talking!! Eddie Dean! New York! And hopefully some lobstrocities and astin. Oh yeah! The Drawing of the Three is one of my all-time favorite books and I have to hope that adapting from this juncture in the narrative will result in a much more successful experiment than what we've seen up to now. Only the best is yet to come in a world that has moved on. (less)
I don't know Pete. It's like you're not even trying anymore. I'm probably suffering from Pete fatigue because this one felt phoned in and a tad kitsch...more I don't know Pete. It's like you're not even trying anymore. I'm probably suffering from Pete fatigue because this one felt phoned in and a tad kitschy and underwhelming.
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...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 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. (less)
Despite the gushing praise this book has been receiving -- including a blurb by Josh Whedon -- I approached The Girl With All the Gifts with a fair am...moreDespite the gushing praise this book has been receiving -- including a blurb by Josh Whedon -- I approached The Girl With All the Gifts with a fair amount of trepidation. I'm a zombie traditionalist at heart, which means my foray into "experimental" zombie fiction -- literary or otherwise -- has met with mixed results. I normally don't like my zombies to talk, fall in love or have existential crises. Hell, I don't even want my zombies to run; I'm all about the Romero shuffle (though there was something truly terrifying and unsettling about Danny Boyle's fast-moving zombies that scared the piss out of me). Even for a traditionalist like me, there's exceptions to every rule. And I found a few more buried like awesome treasure in the pages of M.R Carey's novel.
In case you didn't know, M.R Carey is the not so cryptic pen name for the super-talented Mike Carey. This gentleman knows how to tell a story, where the pulse points live and when to go for the jugular. He also knows that without giving the reader characters to care about your story is gonna have all the pop of a wet firecracker.
A lot of what we get here we've seen before. The world is in the shitter. The zombies (or hungries in this case) have risen up and wiped out humanity. It's about twenty years later and our entry point into the story starts at a fortified base that doubles as a research lab. There are doctors and soldiers, fences and guns. But there are also civilian teachers and children who are their students. And here's where the story takes a bit of a twist: If you do not want to know anything else about this book then beware some mild spoilers ahead under the spoiler tag
(view spoiler)[These aren't ordinary children; they're infected with the zombie virus but have not fully succumbed to it. The children can think, learn, talk and feel. But don't get too close, because they will chew your face off.
Melanie is one of these children. She's precocious and extremely intelligent but she does not know she's a zombie despite her rigidly controlled life in a cell surrounded by soldiers who keep her muzzled and their guns pointed at her head. With no memory of who she is or where she came from, Melanie persists in her ignorant state until a cataclysmic event forces her to confront both the reality and the mystery of the monster that dwells within. (hide spoiler)]
Like a lot of my favorite zombie stories, this one soon slides into the 'group in peril' scenario. A rag tag group of survivors, including Melanie, are left to fend for themselves beyond the safety of the fences where the hungries thrive. Where will they go and what will they have to do in order to get there in one piece?
I love the chemistry of this group and the characterization. They all start out as stereotypes but as the story moves along, each of them evolves from an archetype into a real person with depth and distinctive personalities. I'm a sucker for character, and I felt I got it in spades here. Another rewarding aspect is the time spent describing the zombie virus. Usually the answer to what makes a zombie even possible is ignored, but not so here. Carey offers up a pretty interesting scenario that for me anyway, leads to a very satisfying climax.
Is this a perfect read? Nope. There are a few incredulous moments (view spoiler)[like why was Parks so quick to use his gun and only his gun when noise is the enemy? Shouldn't he have had a machete or a crossbow as a first line of defence? (hide spoiler)] and a few places where the narrative dips and nearly stalls; however those instances are rare. For the most part this is cinematic zombie gold. It's a heady mix of tension and release, adrenaline and emotion. A must-read for all zombie lovers and the zombie curious. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This new series by Steve Niles (he of 30 Days of Night fame) has got my attention. It's the future, and the robots have risen up and destroyed the Ea...more This new series by Steve Niles (he of 30 Days of Night fame) has got my attention. It's the future, and the robots have risen up and destroyed the Earth. But don't think Terminator, think War of the Worlds (the remake with Tom Cruise). While of man-made and not alien origin, the robots are huge towering machines that lumber across the land like metal warships, either solo or in groups, hunting humans for their blood. The machines require blood for fuel; their continued existence depends on procuring it, but such insatiable appetite has wiped the planet clean of all life forms unlucky enough to have blood pumping in their veins -- big or small, animal or human.
Humans are on the cusp of extinction. What gives this story its twist is that they are not the only ones -- vampires are also facing annihilation. Without humans (or even animals) to feed on, they too are starving and dying off. Thus evolves an unlikely and tenuous alliance -- vampire and human -- against the unstoppable machines. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
I love the premise here. It's got me. I love the artwork even more. While not created equal in every panel, the majority of it is gorgeous, capturing a grey, dead, post-apocalyptic landscape punctuated by explosions of ruby as the last of the world's blood is shed and consumed by metal monsters.