I'm going to average this out to three stars. The best stories in this anthology are quite good, applying some of Lovecraft's horror tropes in new or...moreI'm going to average this out to three stars. The best stories in this anthology are quite good, applying some of Lovecraft's horror tropes in new or unexpected ways. Others don't aspire any higher than pastiche, or fall short and just end in slasher movie territory instead.(less)
Even by anthology standards this is very much a mixed bag. I picked this up for the Tayler story, and that's the one I ended up enjoying the most. Sev...moreEven by anthology standards this is very much a mixed bag. I picked this up for the Tayler story, and that's the one I ended up enjoying the most. Several others are solid. A few suffer from doing too-similar things with the anthology premise-- they'd be fine if you didn't read them side by side. There are also a couple of clunkers.
Still, for six dollars on the Kindle, I didn't have to love all of it, and I'm all for supporting new ebook anthologies as a publishing phenomenon.(less)
I have to admit I came into this one suspicious. It gets praise lavish enough to be difficult for any book to live up to. I also knew that it got into...moreI have to admit I came into this one suspicious. It gets praise lavish enough to be difficult for any book to live up to. I also knew that it got into weird, convoluted page layouts and such partway through, which seemed like a bad indicator. Relative to all that I guess I was pleasantly surprised, though it's very hard to judge what I would have thought had I never heard anything about it before I started reading.
Frankly the best elements of the book are quite good. The documentary-within-a-book-within-a-book structure is interesting, and it's those layers that make this something other than a haunted house story, however novel of one. The Truant portions can get a little overwrought-- I certainly wouldn't have much patience for an entire book of them, but then that's not what this is. The book leaves plenty of open questions-- Danielewski judges pretty well what not to explain, while still producing narratives arcs on several layers.
It's the weird typography sections and such that I just don't know what to make of. It seems like a cheap trick to fake literary depth, but it's not a book that's particularly lacking in actual depth. It seems like an amateurish pretension, but the book isn't amateurish otherwise.
There are two long stretches that are done this way-- text only on parts of the page, inverted, footnotes in windows partway through, that sort of thing. The second stretch isn't quite so over the top, and seemed a little more pointed-- maybe I wouldn't have thought so if I hadn't already slogged through the first.
I kept expecting things like, say, pages-long footnotes consisting of irrelevant lists of architectural features to have something encoded in them, some turn at the end. As far as I can tell they don't. One ends up feeling frustrated, maybe even a little bit taken advantage of. Not that some read-the-first-word-of-every-sentence nonsense would have been satisfying, but it would have been intelligible. Admittedly, some of my reason for suspecting even briefly that something like that might be present is the fact that Mark Z. Danielewski's newer book has one of the most contrived structures I've ever heard of for a novel. Again, not the same way I would have read if I'd had no expectations.
Maybe it's all subversion, all intentional, but if so I'm not sure what it's in service to. One can read meaning into nearly anything if one squints hard enough, and I'm not sure "this looks literary but it's not" is a statement worth making at length.
Anyway, this turned a little bit negative, and I do feel like this was a book worth reading. Maybe a second time through it would be helpful, though I don't see myself doing that particularly soon.(less)
I'm not listing a rating for this one; I think it would be misleading. The title story was fine; maybe a little dated, maybe a little bit of Robert Fr...moreI'm not listing a rating for this one; I think it would be misleading. The title story was fine; maybe a little dated, maybe a little bit of Robert Frost syndrome (where something was novel at the time, but has been emulated or imitated so much that it now seems overdone.) Still, a credible execution of a concept that even now has some life in it-- "last person on earth" stories were such a cliche for a while that no one really does them anymore.
Unfortunately, the other stories in the anthology range from mediocre to miserable. Many rely on a sort of visceral nastiness without really earning it; bad things happen to people for no visible reason or purpose. Part of what's frustrating is that some of these read like the framework for much better stories. One, which I believe is called "Mad House" (not entirely sure, blurbs for the book tend not to refer to anything but the title work,) deals with a writer whose anger at the world starts to manifest as objects in his house becoming hostile to him. Interesting premise, intense psychological depiction... abrupt B-movie ending.
Still, I Am Legend itself is worth a read; just know that you're getting a very short novel with some rather dubious short stories appended to it.(less)