I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you t I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you the lady's got mad skills.
It helped a lot I think that I picked this book up at the exact right time. I was ready. I was primed if you will. That kind of timing doesn't always work out. But I'd just come off my binge listening, over analyzing obsession with Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast where I lost countless hours pondering motives, cell phone logs, cell tower pings and an anti-Glee cast of Baltimore teens. I was in an arm-chair detective frame of mind. I was already down in the rabbit hole before the first page was turned. The exact right place to be for where Beukes was going to take me.
And where was that exactly? Broken Monsters is unique and surreal and dark and weird, but there's some lingering familiarity of remembrances past that give the story texture and resonance. And what the hell do I mean by that?
Well, think of the gritty procedural elements to be found in True Detective, Seven or Silence of the Lambs. That's a start. There's a substantive case here and a seasoned kick-ass woman detective chasing down clues and following a trail that's twisted (and broken!) and could run cold at any moment. There's pacing and reveals. Tension and release.
Then there's the atmosphere, mood and vivid -- vivid! -- descriptions of crime scenes, urban decay, and violence that bleed across the page -- an artistic fusion of destruction with creation -- visual feasts in the mind's eye both terrible and beautiful.
The following images may be offensive to some so I shall hide them behind a spoiler tag. However, fans of True Detective and NBC's Hannibal should click (because you know you want to).
I mention these two television shows not just for the obvious authentic procedural similarities found in Broken Monsters, but for each show's masterful artistic vision and gobsmacking cinematography. Whatever inky black well these kinds of hellish tableaux originate from, Beukes has a bucket of her own and is drinking her fill to bursting.
Something else she's mastered with Broken Monsters is a rich cast of characters whose stories intertwine and crash together then rip apart again. She is a maestro here -- a mad puppet master -- creating a symphony of action and reaction. I surely do not want to be Job when this woman is God.
With so many characters running around you really have to sit up and pay attention as a reader. Beukes is not slacking so we can't either. It's easy to get a bit lost and confused in the early stages getting to know everyone and their back stories. It wasn't a smooth transition for me -- I had to go back and re-read a few sections just to orient myself before I read on. But that's okay. With that kind of investment comes huge reward.
I can't say I was completely satisfied with the crashing cacophony that was the book's climax. In some ways it was effing brilliant -- in others it was a hot mess (get on board the Lindsey Lohan/Charlie Sheen train to hell!!!!) Still, as Charlie would say: WINNING!
I agree Charlie. This is definitely a check mark in the win column for Lauren Beukes. I'll be coming back for more.
(Sorry, but nobody puts Charlie in a corner under a spoiler tag. Deal with it people) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Holy shit snacks! What the hell did I just read? I frigging absolutely loved this book. It is such an awesome mindfuck. It's a locked Chinese box with Holy shit snacks! What the hell did I just read? I frigging absolutely loved this book. It is such an awesome mindfuck. It's a locked Chinese box with so many secrets. It's a book that sneaks up on you with its pages and pages of normalcy and sweetness and sadness and intrigue. There's grief and loss, mystery and murder. Then -- when you are least expecting it -- KA-POW! It pounces from the left, and bites you from the right. It punches you in the face and kicks you in the kidneys.
Bruised, battered, confused and reeling. You are in shock. Your adrenaline spikes. All the answers start to pour forth faster than your brain can deal with them. You hang on for the ride, delirious, but hungry for more answers, more revelations, just more! more! more of everything! How is this possibly going to end? What a maze! Which way is out? Is there even a way out?
David Neff is a memorable, sympathetic main character. I don't think any part of this teetering, layered narrative -- so many branches on a tree, so many ripples on a lake -- would have worked without normal, nice guy David and his charming, precocious four year old son Tanner. We come to know them, like them, feel empathy and yes, even love. You root for father and son and pray for their release from the tangled and warped web in which they are ensnared.
David reminded me a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal's character in Zodiac -- one of my favorite movies that also deals with obsession and its damaging, lingering effects.
This is a dramatic and thrilling story that's well-constructed and well-told. It's everything I was hoping to get from The Shining Girls and did not. It surprised me in many ways -- not just its twists, but how emotionally invested I became in the story, its characters, and its outcome.
Read this review! It will make you want to read this book. And you should. Read this book. Yes, you most definitely should.
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've been a lifelong fan of horror and the older I get, it seems to me the harder it's getting to ***Now Available!***
Save your last breath to scream
I've been a lifelong fan of horror and the older I get, it seems to me the harder it's getting to scare me and to get my hands on the good stuff. One positive thing about this sad development is that it's forced me to venture out into other genres and try new things and find new loves. My first love however -- my one true love -- will always remain horror. It's in my DNA (literally probably because my parents were huge fans of things going bump in the night). I was weaned on the stuff, and on the stuff I shall die.
Why am I rambling thus? For a fan with such an unquenchable appetite for these matters, discovering newcomer Nick Cutter is the equivalent of venturing to the end of the rainbow and having a leprechaun hand you over his pot of gold. I'm so gobsmacked and excited by my good fortune (our good fortune) that I'm still in a bit of a dizzy fangirl spin. The only thing that could make this any better would be if this discovery heralded an ushering in of a whole new Golden Age for horror the likes of which not seen since the '80s. Yes? Please? C'mon now!
Well, whatever the case, Nick Cutter is doing his part penning two terrifying tales in two years, written to make grown women scream and grown men wet their pants. He's got the horror cred down; you don't have to read him too closely to see that he too was weaned on the stuff and inside his writer's heart beats the heart of a horror geek.
Reading The Deep I was put through quite the mental and emotional ringer. Between its covers some of my most vulnerable pulse points of fear were ruthlessly exploited. I was reminded of Sphere, The Thing, Event Horizon, and Alien. There's body horror that's going to remind you of early Cronenberg. And just when things start to feel familiar and you think you have a handle on it all, Cutter veers the story off into an angle of Weird that's psychologically trippy and very Lovecraftian in execution. And while this story is going to remind you of a lot of other things, it is still going to shock you and lay you down and have its way with you.
Nick Cutter is a pseudonym for a talented author who can write a mean literary novel and win prizes for them. But I'm selfish and insatiable. Now that he's ventured over to the dark side I want him to stay here and to play here forever, and ever and ever. Yeah, I'm a smitten kitten alright.
A free copy was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Check out my review of Nick Cutter's debut fright fest -- The Troop.
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.
Is it wrong to be totally fangirling over such depraved and bloody storytelling? Probably. But fuck it. I'm not going to apologize. PREACHER is like n Is it wrong to be totally fangirling over such depraved and bloody storytelling? Probably. But fuck it. I'm not going to apologize. PREACHER is like nothing else I've ever read or seen, crossing boundaries of decency and good taste while at the same time offering up compelling characters and kickass world building.
This volume brings together two very different storylines each with its own sense of brutality and redemption. The first half is the revelation of Jesse Custer's twisted and blood soaked past, a family tree steeped in abomination and cruelty, abuse and murder. It's anything but pretty, as heartbreaking as it is frightening and sickening. Having met evil incarnate Grandma L'Angelle and her trusty sadistic sidekicks Jody and T.C. I can say with all honesty I'd rather take my chances dining with Hannibal Lecter or spending the weekend with Leatherface.
The 'Angelville' subplot has a distinctive backwoods, Southern Gothic meets Deliverance vibe that reminded me a lot of today's redneck noir or hillbilly lit. It's gritty realism shot through with supernatural elements that play as straight and normal. None of those elements, including appearances by God and The Duke himself feel out of place or ridiculous. They're seamlessly woven into the story's patchwork without any self-consciousness whatsoever. They belong there, just like the Genesis entity riding Custer's ass imbuing him with the power to bend minds to his will and words.
Custer's ex, Tulip has a much more defining role in this volume. Actually, she's pretty awesome; I just hope she turns out to be more than just Jesse's snuggle bunny. The vampire Cass also returns in all his drunken Irish glory injecting much needed comic relief. The scene with the cat and the toilet made me howl. Bad kitty!
The second half of this volume is quite the departure from the first, introducing a whole new cast of characters including a super secret religious group known as the Grail (think Da Vinci Code) and a pasty white, rich lunatic who could pass for Caligula calling himself Jesus De Sade. If the first half is rural The Walton's meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the second half is all urban decay and hedonism. It's the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah in 20th century America and Jesse Custer is all tangled up in the thick of it, whether he wants to be or not.
And oh yeah, he's still got that bone to pick with God, now more than ever.
Do I want more PREACHER? You're goddam right I do.
After reading Kemper's awesome review I knew I'd be getting to Preacher eventually -- now after having read the first volume I'm left wondering why th After reading Kemper's awesome review I knew I'd be getting to Preacher eventually -- now after having read the first volume I'm left wondering why the hell did I wait so long?!
It's bloody, gory grit and gasoline pulp Texas style, with demons and angels and a possessed preacher, an Irish vampire and a supernatural gunslinger known as the Saint of Killers -- who reminded me instantly of Roland Deschain crossed with Randall Flagg.
Something has gone very wrong in heaven: a terrifyingly powerful entity (the offspring of an angel and a demon known as Genesis) has escaped to earth and binds itself to a mortal man -- Jesse Custer (redneck preacher of a small Texas parish). Jesse needs answers fast as the dead bodies start to pile up around him and the po-po are hot on his tail. Joining him on his quest (and evasion of the law) will be his ex-girlfriend Tulip, and a ninety-something year old Irish vampire called Cassidy.
There's a vicious serial killer on the loose too just to keep things from, you know, getting boring.
The word from up on high is that God has left the building. Literally. Fucked off and left humans to fend for themselves. That's not going to stand for Jesse, and he's decided it's time to smoke God out of his hiding hole and get some answers. Maybe even a little payback, who knows? I surely don't, but I can't wait to find out.
Yeah so make no mistake: this thing is profane. It's violent. But there's an energy and an aliveness running through the story that's absolutely addictive. I can see why this series has stood the test of time (and will continue to do so I'm sure).
But don't take my word for it: in his introduction to the series Joe R. Lansdale calls Preacher "scary as a psychopathic greased gerbil with a miner's hat and a flashlight and your bare asshole in sight." Heh heh. An effective metaphor to make any butt clench up I'm sure. But this is what really got me:
Because there is only one PREACHER, a tale out of Ireland, dragged through Texas with a bloody hard-on, wrapped in barbed wire and rose thorns.
If that doesn't make you want to pick this series up then check your pulse, because you just might be dead.
I'm shouting his name from the rooftops, are you paying attention? This gentleman has got some serious skill people Alan Ryker! Alan Ryker! Alan Ryker!
I'm shouting his name from the rooftops, are you paying attention? This gentleman has got some serious skill people, writing chops to make you quiver and shake.
Dream of the Serpent is only my second Ryker book (the first being The Hoard) but with it he has clinched a spot on my author to watch radar. Color me a smitten kitten.
Burning is the sort of thing that changes you forever. It makes you realize that you're an animal, that all the rest is pretense.
The prose and pacing is exquisitely rendered here reflecting a maturity and mastery of the craft that is a pleasure to read even when what you are reading is fraught with pain and despair. When I picked up this book I was wholly unprepared to read such a graphic, explicit depiction of a young man's savage burns and the life he must confront post-fire. It is tragedy at its most gripping and devastating, so poignant and raw and in your face. It's impossible not to become positively engrossed in Cody's story and his ultimate fate.
This is not a "horror" story per se, but there is plenty here that is shocking and horrific. It is in its way a love story as well, or at least just what and how much we are willing to sacrifice for those we love. Amongst the punishing bleak detail of excruciating hopelessness, there emerges a twisty, mindfuck tale of second chances that's mysterious and oh so satisfyingly constructed in its parts.
Bravo Mr. Ryker. Bravo.
A free copy was provided by the publisher through Netgalley for an honest review....more
No please, I insist: allow me to put myself out of my own damn misery.
#repetitive, #infodumps, #shallow world-bu Oh my aching, bloodydamn, gory balls!!
No please, I insist: allow me to put myself out of my own damn misery.
#repetitive, #infodumps, #shallow world-building, #repetitive, #show don't tell, #horrible characters, #repetitive, #stupid lingo, #boring, #made me want to hurt myself, #made me want to hurt somebody else #and this won an award? #you suck but not as much as this book, #when good ideas go very bad, #maybe i'm just bitter #am i drunk? #i wish i was drunk...more
Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the iconic zombie flick Pontypool, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Confession time: I've seen the movie (it's brilliant), but I never got around to reading Burgess's book. Or anything else by him either. Until now.
Sweet Jebus. I was dimly aware of his reputation as a gore master, a mad splatter genius who frequently pushes boundaries of decency and sanity every chance he gets. It's a reputation well-deserved. Reminiscent of another iconic Canadian's early work -- David Cronenberg -- Burgess delves into body horror in such a way to disarm the reader and distress the shit out of you.
It's not a mere gross out that's easily dismissed as senseless pulp either, but an exercise in relentless brutality that leaves you mentally and emotionally floundering. In a lot of ways, reading The n-Body Problem reminded me of Kafka's The Metamorphosis because I was left feeling similarly shuddering and sad. (view spoiler)[The narrator's fate as an armless, legless torso mummy wrapped and encased in glass is a metamorphosis that leads to much the same kind of alienation and dehumanization experienced by Gregor Samsa. Except the ultimate fate of the narrator here is so much worse, if such horrors can indeed be quantified. (hide spoiler)]
This isn't a book I would easily recommend. It's Grade A disturbing, and very much not nice. I repeat: This is not a nice book. It doesn't want to hold your hand, or stroke your hair. Or make you laugh and feel better about life's absurdities. It wants to show you something very dark and nasty, about humans, about death, about our fear of death and extinction. Approach with caution -- and a very strong stomach. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmenta Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmental, crucifying shadow of the Catholic Church in 1950's St. John's Newfoundland ... is ... curious at best. But also weird and ... questionable.
I'm not sure what kind of a book Johnston thought he was writing. At first it seems humorous and whimsical, a slice of Frank McCourt meets a heaping portion of John Irving. There's poverty, a dysfunctional family, religion, sexual awakening, and some odd occurrences that make you laugh just for their very oddness and inappropriateness.
But as the book progresses, the oddities start to fall flat onto the very shoulders of uninteresting and boring. If Son of a Certain Woman is meant to be Johnston's indictment of the corrupt and nasty hold the Catholic Church at one time held over the historic and capital city of St. John's it really doesn't succeed, neither as a parable, or tongue-in-cheek satire (if that's what you're looking for, get Codco on DVD).
Where it really fails is as a meaningful and emotional coming-of-age story. I didn't fall in love with anybody and did not feel as if there were any stakes worth cheering for. (view spoiler)[Despite Percy's precociousness and precarious place in the world, I could not open my mind wide enough to hope that his gob-smackingly, sensual mother finally lays him. (hide spoiler)]
My disappointment here is heartfelt. I love Johnston's writing and his unerring ability to capture the layered realities and eccentricities of my home and my people. I did enjoy some of his descriptions of the 1950's streets of St. John's, but sometimes, in an effort to paint that portrait, the brush strokes felt a little heavy-handed and clumsy, like a travel book or described video.
While it pains me to do it, I am recommending a pass on this one.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This little Faustian ditty is a hoot and a half, let me tell you and should you think my three stars indicates a less than enthusiOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013
This little Faustian ditty is a hoot and a half, let me tell you and should you think my three stars indicates a less than enthusiastic recommendation, think again. I adore Frank Darabont because he is one of the few film directors out there who truly "gets" Stephen King's work (as an artist and as a fan). The proof is in Darabont's King adaptations onto the big screen with stunning cinematic results, including The Green Mile and my personal favourite -- The Shawshank Redemption.
There is a persistent rumor that Darabont is sitting on the film rights to King's Bachman novel The Long Walk, another favorite of mine which I like to re-read every couple of years. Just the thought of Darabont bringing this classic edge-of-your-seat dystopian nightmare to the big screen is enough to send me into a raving fangirl tizzy. So c'mon Darabont, get on that please before the zombies rise up and we're all more concerned with hoarding toilet paper.
But back to Walpuski's Typewriter. Darabont is a talented director, and an equally passionate screenwriter. He knows how to construct a story and give life to characters, but mostly in the visual sense. He is a man who thinks and experiences the world cinematically. Which is why you see his name on movie marquees, not on the New York Times bestsellers list.
But this fantastical tale laced with dark humor and outrageous outcomes showcases Darabont's admiration and respect for the craft of storytelling, in particular for the works of Stephen King and Anthony Boucher. In Walpuski's Typewriter Darabont is paying homage to these men, a short story that proves imitation is the highest form of flattery. King fans will chuckle. There's something here that feels so familiar and honest, in an adorable, tongue-in-cheek way. It's Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, a delightfully gruesome story ripped from the pages of the 1950's EC horror comics.
It's appropriate I should be reviewing this on November 1st, as thousands of people all over the world sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo. The overwhelming urge to write a novel can make hungering desperadoes out of the most calm and sensible people. As all you NaNo participants venture forth this month to slay your literary dragon, ask yourself how far you would go to succeed in this madcap adventure, to bask in the glory of your triumph and drink from the sweet well of fame and notoriety?
My advice -- stick to pen and paper, and whatever you do, don't resurrect that old typewriter from your uncle's basement or grandma's attic. ...more
Patrick Ness is a magnificent storyteller and master wordsmith in possession of a vibrant imagination. His Chaos Walking trilogy is tremendously uniqu Patrick Ness is a magnificent storyteller and master wordsmith in possession of a vibrant imagination. His Chaos Walking trilogy is tremendously unique and exciting, and his A Monster Calls brought me to my knees with its merciless emotional elegance and purity of Truth.
More Than This shows glimpses of greatness, but never quite reaches that level of soul-satisfying, heart-stopping, mind-melting resolution for me. It's an existential tale of seeking -- the search for meaning, for Truth, for understanding and forgiveness and discovery of self -- where redemption and final destination are displaced for the all important journey. This is a story without a climax, a story which poses many questions and offers no definitive answers.
The characters are great. I loved them. Especially Tomasz. I want an entire book just of that kid. Seth's back story and his relationship with Gudmund (while taking up very few pages of the novel) burns bright, so vivid, so emotional. I quickly became astonishingly invested in their story after only a few scenes, in what they meant to each other and how they expressed their thoughts and feelings. So tenderly realized. There were times I did not want to return to the "other story" going on, I so wanted to stay with these two and find out everything about them -- everything that came before and everything to come after.
Patrick Ness, you need to write a love story. I believe you have it in you to break all of our hearts.
But this is not that book. This is something else. It defies categorization, and sometimes that's a wonderful, brilliant thing. Here, I'm left feeling a little let down and yearning for more. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm going to tell you two things that made me want to read this book:
1) The cover - I mean, c'mon...how kick-ass creepy is this?
2) The first sentence I'm going to tell you two things that made me want to read this book:
1) The cover - I mean, c'mon...how kick-ass creepy is this?
2) The first sentence of the book jacket description: "A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires."
Creepy, evil kids doing creepy evil things is usually a win for me. So it was a foregone conclusion that I would dive into this book with abandon.
First of all -- it isn't horror, despite the cover and the book jacket description. It's more a mash-up of mystery sci-fi with a philosophical bent to it. There are creepy parts, but those are almost incidental to the book's defined purpose. And what is that purpose?
The writing is great. Liz Jensen knows what to do with words. Hesketh Lock is a remarkable character study of a person living with Asperger's Syndrome. I'm no expert by any means (and maybe it's a terribly erroneous portrait), nevertheless I appreciated the attention to detail. I found Hesketh's way of looking at the world and interacting with it endlessly fascinating.
The book opens with Hesketh being sent to different countries on various continents to investigate cases of industrial sabotage. It's not entirely clear how these financially devastating actions by valued employees are even related to the other disturbing cases occurring at the same time of children murdering their caregivers. Hence the mystery. But Hesketh is on the case and with his very unusual brain and the aid of Venn diagrams moves closer to the truth with each passing day.
Even up to the three-quarter mark I was still chomping at the bit to uncover what the hell was really going on. I needed to know. Things were going from bad to worse. What could be behind it all? Demons? Aliens? Time-traveling scientists? So many cryptic clues, hinting at something universally "big" in a space-time-evolutionary way.
I was ready for it. I believed in the author. It felt like she had a plan. I trusted her. Even with a mere 10 pages left and no definitive climax or resolution in sight, I was only slightly worried and concerned.
Ever watch an overwrought, existential and confused piece of French cinema replete with embedded themes and imagery and allegory that you were supposed to "get" but didn't, and then the end title comes up and looks like this:
And then you shout at the screen and shake your fist: What the bleep?! You fume and even cry real tears. Because you realize no one's going to tell you the answer. Oh no. You will have to guess, extrapolate, surmise and theorize, with your friends, or worse still, with the obnoxious douche you have to work with every day.
Well piss on that. If that's what I wanted to spend my time doing I would have gotten my PhD in goddam philosophy. I can tolerate some ambiguity, but by and large I don't like it. It aggravates me. I'm reading for answers and resolution, not for more questions and uncertainty. Ambiguity stinks. Ambiguity is not my friend. Which is also probably why David Lynch movies make me want to stab somebody, him mostly.
So for a horror novel, that turned out to be a mysterious sci-fi piece that turned out to be an exercise in pointless philosophy showcasing an excruciatingly ambiguous ending -- two stars. ...more
Bottom line, this book has *a lot* to recommend it: it is a dark, dream-like, post-apocalyptic landscape with sharp turns and compelling plot twists. Bottom line, this book has *a lot* to recommend it: it is a dark, dream-like, post-apocalyptic landscape with sharp turns and compelling plot twists. I experienced a few moments of genuine shock (remarkable for a jaded reader like myself) and not once did I ever want to stop reading. I just had to know how it was all going to come out. The only way to really know if this book is for you is to go on this journey with Zoe, our narrator, and see for yourself.
This is one of those books that when I finished it, I sat for a moment and didn't know quite what to do with myself, pondering "what the hell did I just read?"
Zoe is a difficult narrator to get to know. She speaks and thinks in metaphors and similes (more on that later). Part of her story is constructed of remembrances of things past -- the THEN -- the other half is told in urgent tones of events unfolding in the moment -- the NOW. While Zoe's story is sympathetic, it took me a long while to warm up to her, even when the only religion she has in this dead and deformed new world is to hold on to the last remnants of her humanity. This means rushing in to "do the right thing" even when the choice to do so is stupid, dangerous or even meaningless.
But her compulsion brings some interesting people into her fractured life, and some monsters as well.
About those metaphors and similes? This is probably what irritated me the most about the book, for if a strong-willed editor had cut half of the flowery phrases from the myriad of thousands to choose from I could see myself giving the novel four stars no problem. Unfortunately, all of the "like a" and "as a" sentences often took me right out of the story, standing out like heavy oak coffee tables that you stub your toe on in the middle of the night (see what I did there?)
Not all of the language in this book makes you want to howl and curse in pain. Some of it is quite beautiful, poetic, startling even. It creates a pall over the story, a tension and a mystery. Zoe's dreamlike narration made me feel like I was moving through heavy water. When the jolts come (and they do, trust me), they really bite you because you've been lulled into a state of complacency.
I did warm up to Zoe eventually, and I keened for a happy ending. White Horse is the first book of a planned trilogy, but the good news is, it ably stands as a complete and satisfying story for those readers wary of committing to yet another series. ...more
Holy shit snacks, people. This book is intense!!! I need a moment to compose myself. But there will be a review.
I was already familiar with Frank BilHoly shit snacks, people. This book is intense!!! I need a moment to compose myself. But there will be a review.
I was already familiar with Frank Bill's writing after surviving a close encounter with his debut -- the short story collection Crimes In Southern Indiana. Upon finishing those stories, my only thought was: "Jesus Christ, this man is a lunatic" -- and then immediately, "I want more!" For sure the stories are raw and unpolished, and perhaps a little too overeager to tell rather than show, but there is also an urgency, a ferocity to the writing that refuses to be ignored. It's so in your face that at times it feels like an assault. I loved it!
So you can bet when I heard this guy was about to publish his first novel I became very afraid, and very, very obsessed with getting my hands on it to read it.
Usually my eyes tend to glaze over and ignore most book blurbs because they always seem so generic and at their worst, sycophantic. But at their best, book blurbs can capture in a few short phrases the very tail of the beast itself and show you its face. As much as I loathe the majority, there are some that do their job so well, they deserve to be recognized along with the book they're blurbing. I only say this now to emphasize that Bill has attracted the attention of authors I love and respect and if you're not going to listen to me when I say this guy's the real deal, then maybe you'll listen to them:
Donnybrook is vivid in its violence, grim in its grimness. It reams the English language with a broken beer bottle and lets the blood drops tell the story. -- Daniel Woodrell, (Winter's Bone)
With action like a belt across the face and vivid prose like a stroke up the neck, Frank Bill's astonishing novel...renders you punch-drunk. Here's the writer to watch: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Megan Abbott, (Dare Me)
I also like this one by Bonnie Jo Campbell: "Don't poke this book with a stick or you'll make it angry." And trust me -- you won't like this book when it's angry. Goodreads friend Jacob writes in his review:
something this good should be illegal, because the act of hunting down a banned copy and hiding from the censors and morality police to read it is the only goddamn way it could get any better. Donnybrook is a relentless, no-holds-barred, total fucking mind-fuck of endless violence...
Yeah, like that. But now you're looking at me tapping your foot impatiently saying: "Yeah, but what the hell is this book about?" I could give you the plot summary lowdown -- about bare-knuckle fighting in the backwoods of Southern Indiana, about desperate family man Jarhead Johnny Earl who's going to steal a thousand dollars to cover the entry fee into the infamous annual Donnybrook tournament.
Then there's meth-making brother and sister Angus (nickname Chainsaw) and Liz who put the F.U.N. in family dysfunction. They've just lost their last batch of dope and are determined to recoup their losses, no matter who gets in their way, even if it means each other. Like any great rural crime story, you've got the steely, determined deputy Sheriff following a trail of dead bodies into a trap he has no idea lays in wait for him. Last but not least, there's Chinese "collection agent" Fu, who's about as badass a dude as you're ever going to meet. He is awesome.
This mad, manic mélange of murderers, misfits and miscreants will eventually descend upon the Donnybrook -- a three day stint of brawling, booze and drugs run by a man named McGill, who makes the Governor from the Walking Dead comics look like Mr. Rogers. But it's not about the final destination folks, but the journey to get there, and (to quote one of my favorite movie taglines ever): who will survive and what will be left of them. Reading this book I couldn't help but be reminded of the lucid insanity of some of Tarantino's best work -- the ensemble characters, the multiple plot threads, and how it all comes crashing together in the end with defined, divine purpose. Hells yeah, people. This is the good shit. Heisenberg grade blue.
Frank Bill is a writer you want to watch. You can find out more about him at his blog House of Grit or follow him on Twitter @HouseofGrit. And as my mama always told me -- never trust a man with two first names.
I don't know what went wrong with this book. I liked it. It was okay, but I expected so much more after reading such blurbs as:
The number one horror
I don't know what went wrong with this book. I liked it. It was okay, but I expected so much more after reading such blurbs as:
The number one horror novel of all time!--The Guardian (London)
If you are easily upset...stop right here.--The New York Times
Not one to usually be influenced by such things, I couldn't help myself when even Paul Newman went out of his way to blurb this book: "I'm something of an insomniac. I read The Watcher and stopped sleeping altogether". How could I resist such an endorsement as that?
I think the biggest problem I have with this book is that it's miscategorized as horror, when really it's a psychological thriller/crime/mystery ... maybe with supernatural overtones (something that's never made explicitly clear one way or the other). I was expecting to be disturbed, creeped out, unsettled, but I didn't experience any of that. Rather I spent my time reading trying to figure out what the hell is really going on here. Is he crazy, or isn't he? Is what he's seeing real, or a product of an over-taxed, diseased mind?
Rightly or wrongly, this book is considered a "horror classic". Originally published in 1982, Penguin Books re-released it this year with a brand new eye-catching (pardon the pun) cover:
I can tolerate some ambiguity. I don't need to have everything explained or all loose ends tied up neatly into a bow. But too much uncertainty drives me crazy, especially when nothing is really resolved and pretty much the novel's entire set-up is left shadowed in doubt. You turn the last page hoping for some resolution, but are left only with more questions.
There is a decent atmosphere here. The set-up is contagious. I needed to know how it was all going to end. The only trouble is by the time I got to the end I was left feeling meh and really, that's it? But we still don't know. I pretty much had the same reaction when I finished reading Threats by Amelia Gray. If you're going to get me all worked up like that with lots of foreplay, don't leave me hanging goddammit. I hate that.
Anyway, all of that to say I really wish I'd liked this one more. ...more
I have a book shelf named "what the bleep" for books that unexpectedly shock my delicate sensibilities, blow my mind, and/or turn it into a pretzel. S I have a book shelf named "what the bleep" for books that unexpectedly shock my delicate sensibilities, blow my mind, and/or turn it into a pretzel. Sometimes the "what the bleep" is shouted in disgust or disappointment (as in -- this book sucks and the weirdness cannot save it). Other times, I shout it with glee for books that break my brain or tickle it so deliciously I can't help rubbing my hands together and cackling like a villain ripped from the pages of a Marvel comic.
I am delighted to report that '14' by Peter Clines is of the latter variety. It truly is a Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. I think what I loved most about this book is that it doesn't play by any fucking rule book whatsoever. It's horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and episodes of Friends mixed with Scooby-Doo and the movie Singles all rolled up into one. It should be a bloody, confused mess, but IT ISN'T. Once it really gets going, it shimmies and jives like John Travolta boogying his way through Saturday Night Fever, with pizzazz and fervor and purpose. And a HUGE side helping of crazy pants.
And it TAKES ITS TIME. Oh, how I love it when a writer can give me some literary foreplay I can work with. Clines lays on the mystery quite thick in the early stages. There's something going on, with lots of hints and just enough reveals to keep us interested and reading on with bated breath. But for a long, long, time Clines keeps the mystery unsolved. The stakes get higher and higher. And the reveal -- while a creaky house of cards and not built of perfection -- is supremely shocking and satisfying. At least it was for me.
This book is a celebration of weird and wacky, finding the fun and the supremely creepy all in one place. Clines borrows from a lot of different sources including Lovecraft, House of Leaves, and John Dies at the End, and cooks it all up in an unforgettable stew of unique flavors and textures. He's a guy to watch. Read this book. ...more