I'm shouting his name from the rooftops, are you paying attention? This gentleman has got some serious skill people...more 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.(less)
First of all, when Stephen King goes out of his way to blurb a book, I pay attention. About The Troop he says:
"This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it's a perfect gift for a winter night."
I'm a sick puppy! Right away, I perk up like one of those Pointer dogs on the scent. Secondly, the book description refers to The Troop as Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins. Oh yeah! You just pressed two of my book buttons right there. I'm lighting up and going off all over the damn place.
So yeah, Stephen King is not lying or exaggerating. This book IS NOT for the faint-hearted. It's for the sick puppies -- it will make you squirm and gag and cringe and hold on for dear life. It will also creep you the fuck out and make your skin crawl off in self defense. Your skin may never speak to you again actually.
I usually run an image free zone in my reviews, but for this book, I'm hoping a picture speaks a thousand words.
Here are some of the faces this book made me make:
Get the picture? I'm a horror veteran, and let me tell you, this book scarred me. There are scenes I will NEVER forget. If they invented brain bleach tomorrow, it still couldn't erase the shock and ewww and WTF? from my mind.
Five stars for totally creeping me out and giving me a raging case of heebie jeebies. I could not put this book down and I will be recommending it to other sick puppies. Plus, I actually CARED about the characters. Newt!!! And perhaps (view spoiler)[having one of the boys turn out to be a bonafide animal torturing sociopath is a bit of overkill, but so what? I admire the author's commitment to grab you by the throat, full-throttle storytelling. (hide spoiler)]
Nick Cutter is a great pseudonym for a horror writer. Let's hope we hear more from him in the future.
A free copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
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...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 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"]>(less)
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 enthusi...moreOCTOBER 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. (less)
I'm not giving any stars here, only a warning: beware which edition of this collection you choose, for if you choose unwisely, you will be sorely ripp...more
I'm not giving any stars here, only a warning: beware which edition of this collection you choose, for if you choose unwisely, you will be sorely ripped off in more ways than one.
I chose unwisely. My edition is the 2010 "updated" version published by Harper Collins with new illustrations by Brett Helquist. To say that it's been sanitized for safe consumption is an understatement. The reason the original 1981 edition became an instant classic and a frequently challenged book in schools and libraries was for Stephen Gammell's ghoulish and nightmarish artwork.
I cry foul and bullshit. You don't mess with perfection and genius. Without Gammell's drawings, this collection loses its bloody, beating heart and is barely worth the paper it's printed on. Who thought this was a good idea? I'm incensed, especially for all the kids who might pick up this book expecting to have the bejeebers scared out of them and wind up merely bored or slightly amused. Unforgivable!
I was going to rant here about our ill-conceived, often hypocritical efforts to "protect" our children and censor their reading materials, but I'll save that for another day. Perhaps for when I write a real review for the real version of this book, the only one that counts, the only one that should be bought and gifted to any young person seeking his or her gateway drug into the realm of the macabre.
You know, the thing about a shark...he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya ~JAWS (1975)
The perfect beach read (for my twisted tastes anyway)...found as summer's door closes on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. The book's blurb describes 'Bait' as: "Survivor meets Lord of the Flies meets Drugstore Cowboy" and that's pretty accurate as blurbs go, with a side portion of Trainspotting to sweeten the deal.
Subtract the worst of its gory torture-porn aspects, I also couldn't help be reminded of the original SAW -- oh yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a winner, a white-knuckled page-turner with a gaping maw of shark's teeth ready to take a chomp out of your ass at any moment. I'd love to see this as a movie, and its length would also have made it the perfect one hour Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode.
The novel works so well because Messum takes some time (amidst the roiling action) to develop his cast of sad, deplorable and desperate characters. As readers, what are we to think of protagonists plagued by heroin addiction and the jagged guilt of dirty deeds?
The six victims who wake up stranded on a deserted beach are not the people we usually cheer for. It's hard to warm up to them, and unless you've suffered from addiction yourself, it's very hard to relate to them in any way. Despite this challenge, Messum takes what could have easily resulted in stereotypical junkies -- the archetype, the caricature -- and turns them into sympathetic characters, nicely fleshed out in a short period of time with minimal details.
On the surface, Bait is a thrill-kill, adrenaline read, a man versus nature versus man extravaganza. But beneath the surface, there is deep water that runs, not just with sharks, but with thematic purpose tinged with social commentary and observations of the human condition -- our rage, our prejudices, our lack of empathy and understanding, our human ability to dehumanize ourselves and others around us. In some respects, this cautionary tale has an allegorical feel to it all, about justice and second chances and who deserves them.
As the dog days of September draw near, I can't recommend this book enough for a quick and satisfying read. (less)
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomp...moreOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013 - #1
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomplishments in mood and story. But it's this review that most closely captures my reading experience of it.
What can I say? I like my horror to hit the lizard part of my brain, rather than the mysterious, atmospheric-laden kind that's literary and beautiful, yes, but misses my lizard brain altogether and goes right for the higher thinking part. I'm not opposed to literary horror -- some of it can be quite effective and evocative -- but it's not my favorite, it's not what I seek out, and it's not what I tend to remember. The best horror combines the elements of both, succeeding not only in a literary sense, but in attacking that primal part of our brain that feels and reacts rather than thinks and considers.
I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal...if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion [only] when the tale has been told and the book set aside.
As a reader of horror, that's the experience I'm seeking first and foremost. I want to be made to feel on an instinctual level of 'fight or flight'. The cerebral stuff is for another time and place.
Aspects of The Sorrow King tickled my lizard brain, but like Elise's time spent in the Obscura, or Steven's long midnight walks, it's more a tale constructed out of dreams and moods, colors and sounds. Don't get me wrong -- things really do happen, frightening things accompanied by disturbing imagery -- I just feel like I spent too much time in my head while reading this one, and not enough time looking over my shoulder for the monster creeping up behind me. (less)
Huh. Well, that was...interesting. Overall, I can say I enjoyed it. But two things chipped away at the star rating: 1) not enough creee-py (though a f...more Huh. Well, that was...interesting. Overall, I can say I enjoyed it. But two things chipped away at the star rating: 1) not enough creee-py (though a few scenes work incredibly well) and 2) waaaaay too much solving of codes and clues and shop-talk about genetics and DNA (oh, and these biological aspects are much more strap on your suspension of disbelief fantastical than this guy's done his research science fiction with the emphasis on science).
There's some crazy ass theories going on in these pages and if you don't commit to just sit back and enjoy the ride you will not. This is j-horror, not a medical thriller nor Isaac Asimov. Reality bends, and bends some more. Just go with it.
For fans familiar with the Ring movies, this is a pretty wild *evolution* of the original premise and curse. It seems overly ambitious to me at this point, without the "meat" to sustain it in a satisfying, credible way. But I'm willing to give Suzuki a chance and see what he can pull off in the final installment of the trilogy - Loop.
One more thing: (view spoiler)[is the identity of the young woman coming out of Mai's apartment supposed to be a "big reveal" moment towards the end of the novel? I assumed immediately this is vengeful Sadako in the flesh. And it also seemed fairly obvious to me that the only way she could be walking and talking is if she's the "thing" Mai gave birth to (because we know Mai gives birth to something). When Ando receives the fax and figures out the woman he's been shtupping is in fact Sadako, his terror and bewilderment is way out of proportion to the reader's. I felt like saying, "d'uh man, pay attention." (hide spoiler)]
Certainly that fax reveal pails in comparison to this fax reveal.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
How could I resist a behemoth, colorful coffee table book about cinematic monsters put together by the legendary John Landis? I couldn't of course, it...more How could I resist a behemoth, colorful coffee table book about cinematic monsters put together by the legendary John Landis? I couldn't of course, it would have been impossible, which is why I'm writing this review.
I have a bit of fangirl squee going on for Mr. Landis, who wrote and directed one of my favorite movies of all time -- An American Werewolf in London. He's also famous for Animal House and The Blues Brothers (and a plethora of cheesy stinkers that I won't mention here). Landis hasn't made a lot of monster movies, but what makes him the perfect person to put together a book like this is two-fold: 1) he's a screaming fanboy for the genre and 2) he's best friends with a lot of the directors -- and more significantly, special effects masters, who make the monsters come to life.
This entire book really does read like a love letter from a fanboy. Landis's characteristic exuberance pours across every page captured in about 1000 exclamation points. Seriously, this book has A LOT of exclamation points. So many I began to giggle and couldn't help but remember this scene from Seinfeld. No amount of exclamation points however, can truly capture Landis's passion and enthusiasm for the medium, his sparkling eyes, his fervent gesticulating, his habit of leaning forward as if he spends most of his life perched on the edge of his seat (which I firmly believe is the case). Watch this guy in person and you'll see what I mean.
So this is not an academic treatise on cinema culture. Landis makes this very clear in his introduction when he calls his book "a labor of love" and not "a ponderous examination of film theory." Budding special effects geeks out there should take note that the book is also missing detailed descriptions from the creators of how movie monsters actually get made. There are no secrets of the trade I'm afraid.
This book is mostly a magnificent, shiny compilation of movie stills and posters featuring just about every monster that has appeared on film in the last 100 years (the good, the bad, the ugly and the cheesy). It is by no means an all-inclusive encyclopedic list; still, there's so much to feast your eyes on, I don't think you'll be left feeling cheated. Some of the most fun I had was spent pouring over the movie posters and laughing at some of the ridiculous tag lines:
That's not how you write a tagline. This is how you write a tagline: (can you name them all without employing Google?)
1. In space, no one can hear you scream. 2. When there's no more room in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth. 3. Who will survive, and what will be left of them? 4. A romantic comedy. With zombies. 5. Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas. 6. Man is the warmest place to hide. 7. To avoid fainting, keep on repeating...it's only a movie, it's only a movie. 8. If Nancy doesn't wake up screaming, she won't wake up at all 9. Herbert West has a good head on his shoulders, and another one on his desk
In addition to Landis's short introductory essays to every chapter, he has also included "conversations" with some of the biggest names in the business -- Christopher Lee, Joe Dante, David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, Guillermo Del Toro, Ray Harryhausen, Rick Baker and John Carpenter.
I adore Guillermo Del Toro. To me he is a big giant teddy bear with a soft warm voice and a generous expansive laugh that erupts from the bottom of his belly. He is articulate, introspective, and acutely observant of the human condition. It is what makes him such an extraordinary storyteller and filmmaker. I would listen to him talk about any subject under the sun (and have in countless interviews), but when he speaks of horror and what scares us I am absolutely, positively riveted. The world could end around me and I wouldn't even notice. In the conversation recorded between he and Landis, Del Toro shares very specific ideas of what constitutes "monster" both philosophically and cinematically.
John Carpenter is the "old guy" now, cynical, almost curmudgeonly, wise with the long view. I love his take on the value of getting "to see" the monster. Implied horror which is only hinted at is basically bullshit and a cop out to Carpenter. Movies like The Haunting and The Innocents represent "the bad and beautiful way of making horror movies." He argues: "I paid my money, I want to see what the fuck it is." That made me laugh so hard. It's true that there is power in what we can imagine, but turning on the spotlights, pulling back the curtain, and letting us really see everything -- leaving nothing to the imagination -- can be a satisfying, cathartic experience in its own right. Ballsy filmmaking too, cause it can blow up in your face if the audience sees any strings or zippers.
This is one of the things that made American Werewolf in London so ground-breaking. Landis wanted to show David's violent metamorphosis from man to werewolf in broad daylight with no cutaways and thanks to the amazing work by Rick Baker he pulled it off. To this day it remains an extraordinary transformation, putting to shame many modern day monsters and their over-reliance on CGI effects.
The chapter entitled "The Devil's Work" includes Carrie White, and I do not think this is the best fit for her, since her abilities and acts of violence do not originate with or are influenced by Satan (Carrie's mother certainly believes this to be true, but we know better). I was also disappointed that Viggo Mortensen's portrayal of Lucifer in The Prophecy did not make the cut. Viggo has very little screen time, but what he has he uses to astonishing effect. It's a chilling, convincing performance (certainly heaps better than Gabriel Bryne's in End of Days alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Missing from the "Ghosts" chapter is Stir of Echoes with Kevin Bacon, which always gets overlooked in favor of its more famous cousin The Sixth Sense. For the record I think Stir is the better movie. If you haven't seen it, pick it up because it is awesome.
If you have a coffee table in your home, this is the perfect book for it (or your bathroom if that's how you roll). Wherever you keep this book in your house, you'll likely never run out of horror movies to watch. There's plenty I haven't seen, and plenty more I can't wait to see again. It's a luscious, visual feast for the eyes and incredibly fun to flip through. It would make the perfect gift for the film buff or horror junkie in your life.
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the...more
Jack Torrence thought: officious little prick ~The Shining (1977)
**Note: I chose not to put this review behind a spoiler tag. Below I discuss both the book and the movie assuming if you're reading this, you're familiar with both.
Even though Stephen King's primary reputation has been 'America's boogeyman', I can count on one hand the number of pure horror novels I feel he's published (and they all come early in his career) -- 'Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, It, Misery and of course, The Shining. King is most famous as master of the macabre, but fans know he is also a keen observer of human behavior and emotions. He knows what makes us tick, and he's just as likely to make us laugh and cry as he is to scream. These five books? These he wrote to make us scream – and shiver, and look over our shoulder, peek under our bed, bar the closet door, and leave the lights on. He wrote them – to put it bluntly – to scare the shit out of us.
His tale of the doomed Torrence family and the sinister Overlook Hotel is in many ways a classic ghost story with its roots firmly planted in Gothic literature, Anne Radcliffe, Henry James and Edgar Allen Poe. More than these however, King is clearly writing under the influence of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Richard Matheson's Hell House. The notion of a malevolent house, seething from within with awareness and intent, was far from virgin territory by the time King came to it in the 1970's. Yet, King brought his own distinct brand of terror to the table and the result has left an indelible mark on not just the genre, but on contemporary literature.
Is The Shining scary? You're goddamn right it is. And I think I never really thought about how scary until I listened to the audiobook. Actor Campbell Scott does an outstanding job, and like all the best ghost stories going all the way back to caveman times, this one is meant to be told, you kennit? Not merely read – but listened to -- surrounded by darkness, hunched around a dwindling fire. There are tropes and themes embedded in The Shining that penetrate to the very lizard part of our brain where fear and anxiety make their home.
In regards to the movie, Stephen King has not been shy over the years voicing his discontent with Kubrick's cinematic interpretation of his novel. I love the movie for many reasons (even though it's been around for so long and parodied so often it's hard to take it seriously anymore). But it pays to remember that Kubrick chose to tell an entirely different story from King.
The beating heart of King's novel is the sundering of the family unit, the destructive forces of alcoholism, the legacy of domestic violence and the incipient guilt and self-loathing it can bestow. If I have one complaint about the movie is that it fails to show any tragedy. King's version is not only terrifying, but heartbreaking. It is the story of a flawed but decent man in the process of clawing his way back into the light when all that he loves is ripped away from him. Whereas Kubrick's film focuses purely on a man losing his shit (in other words, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy).
In the film version, we see Jack Torrence go stark raving mad and viciously turn on his family with homicidal intent. But King's Jack Torrence doesn't go crazy, or suffer from the proverbial “cabin fever” alluded to in references to Grady, the Overlook's infamous previous caretaker. In the novel, it's the Overlook itself acting with malignant and malicious forethought that uses and abuses hapless Jack Torrence. It manipulates him, it twists his thoughts and controls his behavior. You can look at it as an alien invasion, or an outright demonic possession, but by the end of the novel, Jack Torrence is no longer a who but a what referred to as an it.
It hurried across the basement and into the feeble yellow glow of the furnace room's only light. It was slobbering with fear. It had been so close, so close to having the boy....It could not lose now.
Jack is lost inside of the monstrosity the Hotel has made him, as it uses his body to hunt down his little boy to murder him. A large part of the story's inherent tragedy for me, is watching Danny Torrence -- who loves his father very much -- lose him in such a frightening and grisly manner.
”Doc,” Jack Torrance said. “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.” “No,” Danny said. “Oh Danny, for God's sake--” “No,” Danny said. He took one of his father's bloody hands and kissed it. “It's almost over.”
Now this fall, after a wait of almost four decades, readers will finally discover what kind of a man this little boy with his unique ability to shine has become. That's a story I didn't even know I wanted until it became a reality. Now I want it more than I can even put into words. In all of this overlong review where there are still many, many things I could have rambled on about, I failed to find a moment to speak briefly of Dick Halloran. I love this character -- his humour, his kindness, his fierceness and strength. I can only hope that catching up with Danny Torrence will mean crossing paths with Mr. Halloran again too. (less)