I always want to condemn him for the writing. After the first few pages, I want to pull out a red Sharpie and scrawl "PULP CRAP" across the cover andI always want to condemn him for the writing. After the first few pages, I want to pull out a red Sharpie and scrawl "PULP CRAP" across the cover and ship it off to the kind folks at Viking. Because accessibility is bad, right? A book you can easily understand cannot possible be capital-G-Good, can it?
It's nice when a book strolls along and focuses its burning spotlight on my literary snobbishness, exposing me for the pretentious asshole I tend to be. Because for all the clunky composition, the omniscience-related confusion, It stuck with me. I've felt anxious and down for a solid week. Only with the conclusion of the book did the cloud lift and finally reveal itself.
Stephen King may not be the most gifted wordsmith in the history of the novel, but he has a firm handle on themes that make me physically ill. And they're not gore and spiders and wolfmen. They're parental neglect and guilt and people being people. It manages to merge all of these into a shit cocktail I could barely stomach.
I had the most trouble with Henry Bowers. I hated him because I've met him so many times in my life. Here, sure, he's hyperbolically psychotic, but he doesn't start that way. And that's terrifying. I can remember the first time I met Henry. It was in the boys' restroom in fourth grade. Henry's name was Ryan back then. Ryan and me had never quarreled before, never really said anything to one another. But on that day, Ryan cornered me in the restroom and lifted me up by my shirt. He showed me that there were places that grown-ups were not, where their influence means precisely nothing.
And sometimes they come back. Henry went on to follow me throughout my childhood. In my adolescence, he changed his name back to Henry, then to David, then to Chris, then to the unfortunately named, Tater Tot. After that first time, there was a parade of Henry's waiting to fuck with me in the back of the bus or on the street or in the calculator section of Office Max. He always seemed to be there (or, if not, his memory certainly was), waiting to call me a fag or spit on me or kick my ass.
As if that wasn't bad enough, King reminded me that shit always runs downhill. Henry Bowers has a motherfucker of a father. I had one of those. And sometimes that meant that Henry changed his name to Caris. There was a neighbor kid we'd play with sometimes, but we'd always end up ganging up on. And there was that oddball kid in junior high who a friend and I had pushed into the mud. That part hurts worse.
People are people. Sometimes that means they're assholes. Here, in this book, they had a good reason for their evil deeds. In real life, that core supernatural reason isn't necessarily there, but the actions are largely the same. It's survival of the thickest.
Anyway. This sense of anxiety pervades the novel. There are evils to be avoided at every turn, and, yet, lives to be lived. That's where it really starts to feel bad. The seven kids have lives and personalities- they're good people who you don't want to see get hurt. But they're going to get hurt. Because this is art. And art imitates life (or so I've heard).
So while I have problems with (view spoiler)[preadolescent gangbangs (hide spoiler)] and (view spoiler)[giant killer spiders (hide spoiler)] in a novel I'm supposed to take seriously, I can't help but admit that the emotional roller coaster this book put me through made it something special. I don't like it for that, but I can grudgingly admit when I've been bested.
It's strange for me to read a single horror novel, let alone two horror novels in the same week. There's something profoundly unappealing about the geIt's strange for me to read a single horror novel, let alone two horror novels in the same week. There's something profoundly unappealing about the genre to me, which makes little sense given my attraction to horror in other mediums. I suppose that, for me, horror needs to be a sensory experience. I need to hear the rusty scissors being put to their sinister purpose. I need that thing to actually pop out of the darkness. My brain isn't forgiving when it comes to frightening descriptions.
Of the two I read this week, I liked this one the best. That's probably because it didn't come across with the deathly seriousness that the other one did. This seriousness, in my experience, is pretty common among works of literary horror. And that is a shame because it shows that many writers of horror fiction have learned very little from horror films. You can be serious, but not all the time. No one wants to feel exactly the same way for the duration of a novel. Dread and foreboding can be good, but when they never let up, it's like having the same dinner every night for a week. Temper the salty with sweetness. If you want to scare me, you must also make me laugh.
And that's where this book succeeds. Reading it, I thought about how great the movie will inevitably be. It's got a silly premise- a haunted Ikea knock-off store. It's a ghost story set in the most improbable of locations. How can a giant, Swedish design factory, with its new building and shiny, do-it-yourself assembly projects harbor restless, blood-thirsty denizens from the beyond? How can Ikea be a frightening place?
Somehow, Hendrix manages to do it (to a degree). I wasn't remotely frightened, but I was interested, which is about the best reaction I could hope to have to a horror story. I love the parallels he made between Orsk and that (surprising) thing that haunts it. And the design of the book did a lot to bring in some of those visual elements that horror films do well. I loved the layout of the book, and I'm not typically one for gimmicky book design. When I first saw the book, I thought it was a Halloween-themed Ikea catalog, which made my heart skip with joy. Even after I realized it was a book, I was still impressed with the cleverness. As I read it, I was more and more amused by the illustrations, which become more depraved as the story progresses.
This book was worth my time. I enjoyed it. There are many people out there who will love it. For me, it was an exceptionally clever meditation on consumer culture and quickly-forgotten history. And the ectoplasm scene was pretty fucking cool. ...more
“You’ve got to read this,” my boss says. “This kid actually shits diamonds!”
“Shits diamonds?” I ask.
“And rubies! He shits them!”
If Ste“You’ve got to read this,” my boss says. “This kid actually shits diamonds!”
“Shits diamonds?” I ask.
“And rubies! He shits them!”
If Stephen King calls Bentley Little “a master of the macabre,” who am I to argue? I, after all, am but a simple man. This jacket quote, perched right up there at the top of the book, revealed to me that, after all this time, I apparently lack an understanding of what “macabre” means. Thank you, Stephen King.
I fear that I may not be the only one in this boat, so I will elaborate:
“Macabre” refers to flat storytelling, characters so thin and flimsy that they might actually give you a papercut if you spend too much time with them, horror entirely reliant upon gross-out situations, and adolescent sex fantasies. Oh, and shitting things that ought not be shat.
Little is certainly a master of those things. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the work of anyone quite so skillful in those areas. The feelings of terror related to probable death that I had previously associated with tales of the macabre were sorely lacking from this silly little collection masquerading as a novella. If only a little effort had been extended toward building tension and providing description, the book could have been interesting. But there wasn’t, and it wasn’t.
By all means, though, if you have coprophobia or something, please read it. You will be terrified....more
This seems kind of silly to say, but based on the quality of the writing, I don’t know that I believe Guy N. Smith actually wrote this. This bookHuh.
This seems kind of silly to say, but based on the quality of the writing, I don’t know that I believe Guy N. Smith actually wrote this. This book reads like a parody of the Crabs novels, which, again, silly, yes, I know. It reads different. There’s a lot of italics and an excessive number of exclamation points- stylistic choices that haven’t appeared in the rest of the series. And, to cap things off, there’s no plot to speak of.
Say what you will of the Crabs books, but they have always been plot-driven. There is always something happening. A very specific something, actually: giant crabs start to invade the land and, after lots of death, someone stops them. This book, though, was just a series of vignettes featuring angry crabs killing British people. Calling this book Crabs on the Rampage actually spoils the plot. I mean, that same story technically happens, but it isn’t woven into the plot. There are no lasting subplots and very few whores.
So I don’t know if someone wrote this for Guy N. Smith or he just tossed together crab death scenes he had laying around, but it isn’t right. I disagree with Michael (or whatever the fuck he’s calling himself these days)- this is non-canonical. The story reminds me a great deal of Arthur Conan Doyle’s attempt to murder Sherlock Holmes when he grew bored of him. Could Smith simply have been tired of writing about giant, murderous crabs? It’s hard to say. Crabs’ Moon, the next book in the series, was a solid entry.
Now, it isn’t often that my bank of cultural references is useful. I don’t have a comprehensive understanding of Shakespeare, never read the Bible, anNow, it isn’t often that my bank of cultural references is useful. I don’t have a comprehensive understanding of Shakespeare, never read the Bible, and maintain only a vague understanding of Celebrity Apprentice. I typically read books I find on clearance racks and haven’t watched network television in two years. Because I am an elitist, hipster asshole.
That said, I have watched more than my fair share of horror movies featuring killer puppets. There’s Screamtime, of course. And Pinocchio’s Revenge. Dead Silence. But anyone in the know will tell you that the killer puppet genre starts and ends with Puppet Master and its ten sequels: Retro Puppet Master, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, Puppet Master X: Axis Rising, Puppet Master II: His Unholy Creation, Puppet Master 4: The Demon, Puppet Master 5: ,the Final Chapter, Curse of the Puppet Master, Puppet Master: The Legacy, and Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (though, arguably, this last one is a non-canon film).
I would hazard a guess that Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are also fans of the series, as their little book (if not a total ripoff) borrows a whole hell of a lot from the Charles Band film franchise. We have supernatural, post-World War II puppets with nefarious tendencies wreaking all kinds of havoc that no one suspects them of because they’re fucking puppets. Cool, eh?
In a movie, yes. In a book? Not so much. For the most part the narrative is boring. The artwork makes it look like a horror story, but it isn’t that. I mean, there are evil puppets, sure, but there are no horror elements. The writing is comparable to what you might expect from a grocery check-out paperback.
Sigh. It was boring, and it shouldn’t have been. ...more
Jesus help me, I used to love these books. Every month, on the day the new one would be released, I’d beg my mom to take me to the bookstore so that IJesus help me, I used to love these books. Every month, on the day the new one would be released, I’d beg my mom to take me to the bookstore so that I might fork over my four bucks and be transported into whatever weird fucking thing R.L. Stine had dreamed up that time. The books were never enough, though. It was like I had to pledge my life to Goosebumps. If there was a calendar, a crappy television show, a cheap reading light, or spin off series, I had to have it.
Imagine my joy when I discovered the Goosebumps audiobook collection for sale at a local closeout bookstore. Several of my favorite titles were there for just a couple of dollars each. I bought everything they had. I gleefully took them home and put them on my bookshelf.
I’ve never been the sort of person who can listen to an audiobook as an active activity. But I don’t have much trouble listening to them when doing something else- like going to sleep. So, for a couple of years, I drifted off to the sound of preteens getting themselves into precarious situations.
Perhaps my favorite audiobook of the lot was the classic Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes. In the story, a young boy learns that the lawn gnomes in his neighborhood come to life at night and do all sorts of benign, fratboy-style pranks.The boy, Joe, is at odds with his mean neighbor (who hates his dog, Buster) and is a pain in his sister’s ass. When his suspicions about the animated lawn gnomes grow (or, more specifically, when he starts getting blamed for the shit they’re doing), he sneaks out at night to investigate. In the end, he learns that there is a whole society of gnomes and blah, blah, blah.
This book, though, is strikingly different. The kid in this book is named Jay. And his dog is named Mr. Phineas. Jay is at odds with his mean neighbor, who hates his dog. He’s also a big pain in his sister’s ass. And when Jay realizes that the gnomes are coming to life at night, he doesn’t sit back and do nothing- he sneaks out at night to investigate. When all is said and done, he learns there’s this whole society of gnomes and blah, blah, blah.
Okay, so I will take into account that R.L. Stine is probably dead. And that his corpse probably isn’t writing books anymore. And I will even assume that the intern or whothefuckever that wrote this book did so as a big joke. Let’s say, just to be safe, that the nearly identical storyline is intentional. It makes for a good throwback to the original, right?
I don’t think so. This is almost as bad as children’s television shows being made into books. In this universe of ours there exists a nearly infinite number of Goosebumps storylines. Planet of the Lawn Gnomes should never have been one of them....more
I first discovered Clive Barker in my senior year of high school. When I first cracked open the Books of Blood, I found something that rekindled a parI first discovered Clive Barker in my senior year of high school. When I first cracked open the Books of Blood, I found something that rekindled a part of my being that I’d considered dead and gone. See, I started working in a library when I was sophomore. After two solid years of being surrounded by books for nineteen hours each week, I wanted nothing to do with them.
Looking back, I can see that I was just in a prolonged reading funk. These things happen. But being a teenager who never found his literary stride after being a voracious child-reader was difficult to manage. My brain thought I didn’t enjoy the activity anymore, much like my newfound aversions to my parents and sports. Luckily, I kept reading all this time. Even when I told my friends and teachers that I didn’t read in my spare time, I still had a novel on my bedside table that was swapped out fairly regularly. I still had to read to be able to fall asleep.
But I was bored. I didn’t like the adult novels I tried and I felt too disconnected from the teen horror novels I’d read up until that point. They were too predictable to deserve further analysis. And they were so tame.
The Books of Blood, though? There was something beautifully subversive about those stories. They were weird and perverse, filled with gore and sex and all of the adult things my brain wanted- all safely rooted in the genre I’d grown up enjoying most. What was more, I found a beautiful use of language that the books of my past lacked- metaphors, imagery, and sweet, sweet profanity.
Over the next year or two, I read everything Clive Barker wrote. I swore to everyone who would listen that his work wasn’t just horror- it was literary. He was head and shoulders above hacks like Stephen King and Dean Koontz (I’d never read either). And I stuck to my guns, even after I finished all of his work and had to branch out to new authors.
Until I met Jack Kerouac. When I finished reading On the Road, I drew a line in the literary sand, one that poor Clive would never be able to cross. I felt sad to have wasted all of that time on inferior books when Kerouac’s work had been available since the first time I drew breath.
There are two main characters in The Sorrow King, a father and a son. The father has mostly failed at life, but manages to happily manage a bookstore and maintains a relationship with his teenage son, who he doesn’t always understand. There is one touching scene in which the father reflects on his son’s reading choices, noting the switch from Cliver Barker to Jack Kerouac and how he’d made that same move himself.
And that’s very much what The Sorrow King is. It’s one of those transitional books. It’s not quite for adults and it’s not quite for young adults. I appreciated it because it didn’t speak clearly to me. As a rule, I don’t read horror. It’s a stupid rule, granted, but I tend to not like horror fiction. But this book seemed to have been written for me (either that or my past has been so sadly replicated by so many others that this reading transition is universal and I never knew about it). While reading it, I identified with the father and the son simultaneously. It was like watching two of my own developmental stages from an outside perspective. If that sounds kind of cool and creepy, it is. That those selves of mine were dropped into a fantastical fairy story only made things better. I was able to see what horror did for me as a teenager and why I outgrew it. It had to happen. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t go back to it and see it in another light.
I was wrong. When I dismissed Clive Barker as a waste of time after my first foray into literary fiction, I was, once again, demonstrating my own naivete. Nothing that moves you forward is a waste. Those tattered mass market paperbacks got me to where I am today.
Oh. You want to know about the book? It’s good. Really good. You should read it. ...more
My thought process upon stumbling across this book:
Fish, you say? Dead fish? With legs?
An invasion? Great Whites? With legs?
Great, where do I sigMy thought process upon stumbling across this book:
Fish, you say? Dead fish? With legs?
An invasion? Great Whites? With legs?
Great, where do I sign up?
Tadashi has a problem. His girlfriend, Kaori, won’t kiss him. She says his breath stinks. And it’s not just in the morning, but any time. If he wants to kiss, he must first brush his teeth.
This upsets Tadashi. Every kiss requires a tooth brushing? Fuck that noise. So Tadashi fashions a shiv out of his toothbrush and stabs his girlfriend to death. When he’s done, he dips the bristles into the pools of her fresh blood and maniacally scrubs his pearly whites, never pausing to spit out the foam generated by the friction.
Okay, that doesn’t actually happen. Instead, Tadashi yells at her about the selfishness of her request. Kaori stands by her decision, though, and Tadashi gets no action for the rest of the book.
Which seems totally unfair. Because it isn’t Tadashi’s breath that smells so bad! It’s the Death Stench Creeps (see “Thought Process” above)! Kaori seems to have a sixth sense where the Creeps are concerned. It’s pretty goddamned funny, actually. She spends the whole book complaining about the smell. Tadashi keeps telling her it’s all in her head, even after the Creeps have attacked them and it becomes evident they’re being chased by rotting fish. That’s a special kind of delusion Kaori has- an unwillingness to pretend things are okay.
It’s Kaori who is the interesting one to me. I don’t know exactly what the author is trying to say, but I think it has something to do with female subservience. Kaori won’t kiss Tadashi because of the foul odor coming from his face hole. Afterwards (or, perhaps, as a result of that), she is plagued by this smell of rotting flesh. At every turn, she’s told, flat out, that she’s wrong. She’s not understanding. She’s just smelling things that aren’t there. That plastic bag full of rotting fish that chased her from Okinawa to Tokyo? Yeah, that’s a different floating bag of dead fish.
But what does it mean? Is it a morality tale? A “listen to your man and everything will work out just fine” sort of story? Or is it commentary on male chauvinism?
Fuck if I know. I’m just here for the fish....more
If you’re into crabs and phonetical representations of Scottish brogue, boy have I got a book for you!
Bruce McKechnie, the laird of Cranlairch, is anIf you’re into crabs and phonetical representations of Scottish brogue, boy have I got a book for you!
Bruce McKechnie, the laird of Cranlairch, is an incorrigible asshole. He bought up some prime real estate (um....a bog) and forced all the shepherds to take their sheep elsewhere. Who cares if they can no longer dine on that sweet bog grass? Not me and not the laird, that’s who. He converts this otherwise useless parcel of land into a shooting preserve, where wealthy businessmen can come to kill birds.
All is well and fine until the crabs crawl out of the loch and start fucking shit up. And fuck shit up they do. In addition to scores of servants and asshole hunters, these innovative crustaceans even eat a dog and a cat. Like spaghetti they slurp the tail!
This is, by far, the most political Crabs novel I’ve read. It has a very clear “nature bites right the fuck back” message. The laird is as disrespectful of nature as one can be, and he pays the price for his transgressions (But, boy howdy, is he a fun character! He tries to kill the crabs with dynamite! Dynamite! What a fucking joker!) This book also boasts the most mean/evil crab faces per capita of all in the series.
Beyond the normal crab awesomeness, this one gets some special points. A fucking lot of them. It’s called, The Origin of the Crabs, but there’s no more mention of their origin than in any of the other books! Two sentences that hint at nuclear testing! Truth is, the Scots don’t know shit about the crabs, either! Poor fucks! They canna stop ‘em! Thar all goonta fookin’ die! God bless Guy N. Smith for randomly assigning the title. He is the shit.
And it that’s not enough to convince you to read it, there’s this, too: there’s a hot lady of loose moral fiber passed amongst the laird and the hero. And when she’s not riding the ole lurve stick, she’s maniacally pleasuring herself. I have read four crabs books now and there have been four sex-crazed women. That’s four women spread across three countries. What is it about crabs that makes women so insatiable?! One of nature’s wonders, that is....more
Once upon a time, I was a psychology major. This was a rather persistent occurrence early in my college career. I was fueled by the books I read and,Once upon a time, I was a psychology major. This was a rather persistent occurrence early in my college career. I was fueled by the books I read and, if I’m honest, by a desire to be like Fox Mulder. That’s not the most embarrassing admission one could make, I guess, but for someone trying to forge a real career, it ranks right up there.
After my first psychology course, my plans were thoroughly derailed. Psychology was boring as all fuck. So I switched to English. English was sweet. It came easily and was quite enjoyable. I could write essays. I could debate the finer aspects of Beowulf. But then I heard that the job outlook would be poor unless I wanted to teach. And I didn’t. So I switched back to psychology.
Psychology didn’t get much more interesting. There was lots of talk of brain development, learning theories, experiments on rats that didn’t appeal to me. I was at a loss after having taken all of the courses my community college offered.
There are benefits, I found, in spending four years completing a two year degree program. One of those is getting to know professors. And there are some professors who will recognize an interest and will let you run with it in the form of an independent study. My last year at that school was filled with independent studies.
My interest was to make psychology into something cool. I came up with a year-long project that provided me with work for five or six independent study classes. I spent a year of my educational life studying demonic possession.
My personal desires were met. The project was cool as all hell. The results? Meh. Lame as shit. But that wasn’t the point. I was no Ph.D. student. I didn’t have a fucking Associate’s Degree. The fact that nothing I came up with would ever be of any consequence was liberating and took pretty much all of the pressure off of the experience.
One arm of that project was a report of first-person encounters with the demonic. That was cool as shit. And creepy as shit. There was a lot of shit involved. I got to talk with a former police officer who dealt with a wicked bad case of ritual satanic abuse (of course, at this point, who fucking knows if that’s what it was or not- the time was ripe for that shit). The stories he told were downright scary and, though he tried to downplay it, they often verged into supernatural territory. Then there was the Muslim fellow who was kind enough to school me on the beliefs of his people. Not too scary (as it was pretty much a religion lesson), but still cool.
The best interview I got, though, was from a husband-wife exorcist team. They had performed a number of ceremonies, but focused on one in particular that had the traits of a b-movie. It was great. Spooky as all fuck.
This book, The Gilgul, came into my possession (I pun, I pun) at that time. Someone who knew I was doing this project passed it on to me. I put it on a bookshelf and promptly forgot about it, never having any intention of reading an early-nineties mass market horror novel. But I found my self scouring my bookshelves last week, trying to find anything remotely scary. I don’t have much love for horror fiction, and my bookshelves reflect that. But it’s almost Halloween. I wanted to get in the mood. And I spotted this book.
“Why the fuck not?” I asked myself.
Having finished it, I wish I would have read it when I first got it . Would this book have been good source material for that project? No. But it would have resulted in my researching Jewish possession rituals. See, this book is all about a soul that refused its place in heaven to right a wrong. In doing this it entered the physical body of another earth-returned soul (a gilgul) looking to earn its place in heaven or wherever. At first, the story was very easy to follow and pretty goddamned simple. Hell, if you’ve watched The Exorcist, you don’t really need to read the first three-quarters. That said, I highly recommend you do because Linda Blair never shot blood out of her nipples like a Supersoaker. You deserve to experience that.
The beginning of the end was kind of a letdown because the suspense just fell flat on its face. Nothing was scary anymore. There was a rational explanation (even if it was spiritual in nature) for everything. But what was cool was (view spoiler)[the fact that the rabbi in charge of the whole solution didn’t perform any cliché exorcism. Instead, he held court and allowed the two aggravated souls argue their sides of the story and made a judgment based on that. It was very orderly and so efficient that you almost forgot that there was a corpse on the stand and the ghost of a concentration camp victim confined to a chalk circle in the center of the court. (hide spoiler)]. As far as I’m concerned, Hassidic Jews are the Arthur Fonzarelli of religious practitioners.
It’s a horror novel, so I’ve got no fucking idea how much of that last bit is true to form. It would have led to a very interesting investigation for my younger self. The way different people deal with the near-universal belief in spirit/demonic possession is ridiculously interesting. And, though it’s probably hard as hell to track this book down, it’s actually worth reading (for serious) for the ending. ["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