An enjoyably pulpy haunted house story with lots of sex and ectoplasm. It plays like a trashy rewrite of The Haunting of Hill House but owes just as...moreAn enjoyably pulpy haunted house story with lots of sex and ectoplasm. It plays like a trashy rewrite of The Haunting of Hill House but owes just as much to The House on Haunted Hill. A researcher is hired by an ailing millionaire to prove conclusively whether or not the human soul survives after death. That might sound tricky, but Lionel Barrett has an ace up his sleeve - Hell House, the Mount Everest of hauntings, which has chewed-up and spat out more research teams than anyone cares to remember.
This is certainly an enjoyable read, but it suffers from an addiction to twists which are constantly undercut by the fact that there is too much of the book left for any of them to have revealed the truth. The final revelation is pretty neat, but it's also something of a cheat - one of those And then There Were None-style endings where the only reason you never guessed it is because you were never given any of the necessary information (a cardinal sin for mysteries). The climactic battle with Hell House itself is also pretty lame, taking the form of not one but two lackluster conlusions with a nasty shock sandwiched in between.
It's also not an especially well-written book. Matheson had had a long and justly revered career as a novelist and screenwriter by this point, and yet his prose is workmanlike, his characterisations rather shallow, and his characters prone to repeating themselves every twenty pages because Matheson clearly can't think of a way to move the plot forward (in fact there's never really much of a plot). The whole thing reads like a protracted movie treatment, and it hardly surprises me that the book was brought to the screen only a couple of years after its publication.
Still, this may not be of the caliber of I Am Legend, but it's an exciting and enjoyable read and worth the time of anyone who likes a gruesome bit of psychological horror.(less)
This is a very slight book, and offers little new information for anyone already at least casually acquainted with Lovecraft's life, works and general...moreThis is a very slight book, and offers little new information for anyone already at least casually acquainted with Lovecraft's life, works and general character. It is, however, a very quick read, and worth it for the insights into the nature and allure of weird fiction which Houellebecq's essay provides, as well as the author's various postulations on the how and why of Lovecraft himself. The book also boasts an excellent (albeit obviously hastily written) introduction by Stephen King, and the two longer stories "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer in Darkness", two of Lovecraft's best. The whole volume is either a very cynical marketing gesture, an earnest attempt to ensnare new Lovecraft converts using the name cache of a number of high-profile fans, or both - in any case, it's worth at least checking out.(less)
Oh boy, if I had read this when I was fifteen it would have been my favourite book in the world.
I actually saw the film of this first, which may have...moreOh boy, if I had read this when I was fifteen it would have been my favourite book in the world.
I actually saw the film of this first, which may have hurt my appreciation of the novella. The film, you see, follows King's book almost to the letter, but at the same time it fleshes-out a lot of the minor characters, cuts-out King's incessant pop-culture name-dropping and ill-advised sub-plots (the relationship betwen Amanda and David is pointless and ill-conceived, and really should have been shelved unless King intended to flesh this out into a full-length novel), and provides a portrait of the villain, Mrs Carmody, which is simultaneously more over-the-top and mustache-twirling and more believable than that presented in the book.
I'm not just bashing this work for not being as good as its adaptation, however. In fact, the two complement each other quite nicely. King's story is very much a pulpy yarn, clearly written with little thought other than to take this really cool idea he'd hit upon and just get the story out. The film, conversely, is a somewhat heavy-handed political allegory that occasional forgets it's a horror film (often, but not always, to its detriment).
Putting all this aside, The Mist is a really cool idea. It's a mist! Full of monsters! That's covered-over the entire world! That's a great premise. My only real quibble is that King decided to have all of his characters trapped in a super market for another re-reun of Night of the Living Dead. He was obviously trying to conjure a sense of brooding, apocalyptic hopelessness, but the rushed style he adopts kind of undoes him, here, and the book often reads more like either a bloated short story or the skeleton of what could have been an excellent novel. If he'd fleshed things out a bit, and had the characters take-off across country trying to survive, then that would have been marvellous. I do get the sense that he just sort of ended it where he did, because he couldn't think of anything else to write.
Anyway, this was a very enjoyable story. The characters are reasonably fleshed-out, the writing is decent, the ideas are wonderful, and there are some excellent set-pieces. I'm just a little bitter, because as good as this is, with a little more effort it could have been a genuine classic. The idea is simply too good for anyone to be allowed to half-ass it, even if it's also good enough to mean that people can simply coast on it if they want.
I definitely recommend it, anyway. Just don't see the movie first, because it might spoil things for you.(less)
I was under the impression that this was hellishly grim and depressing, when in fact it's mostly just really, really funny. I may have to read more of...moreI was under the impression that this was hellishly grim and depressing, when in fact it's mostly just really, really funny. I may have to read more of Mr. Banks.(less)
The horror tales in this collection are a bit uneven. My favourite stories were probably "The Black Stone" and "Pigeons from Hell". The first is a ver...moreThe horror tales in this collection are a bit uneven. My favourite stories were probably "The Black Stone" and "Pigeons from Hell". The first is a very simple tale the success of which rests on a particularly ghoulish vision of an ancient sacrificial rite. The second is a wonderfully lurid tale of voodoo-enabled revenge.
I was also particularly fond of the Steve Harrison detective stories. Not so fond of "Children of the Night" and "People of the Dark", both of which were basically the same story (man hits his head and relieves a past life as a slayer of abhumans). And I'm still not sure how I feel about "Skull-Face", which was so over-the-top I couldn't help but enjoy it, but which was marred by amateur writing and some very silly characterisations.
Overall I liked this book, though. As someone who only really knows Howard from his Conan stories (which I love), it was curiously satisfying to wade through the demented, blood-soaked lunacy of some of his other, lesser-known works.(less)