Holy cow, this book is every bit as nuts as I'd heard it was. It's an utterly original marriage of horror, comedy, postmodern lit, urban fantasy and mHoly cow, this book is every bit as nuts as I'd heard it was. It's an utterly original marriage of horror, comedy, postmodern lit, urban fantasy and magical-realism that completely knocked me on my ass. I really, really wish I could write a book as weirdly wonderful as The Library at Mount Char.
That being said, I've also heard it described as "too weird," and that may be the case for many readers. Because it is weird, there's no denying. The Library at Mount Char drops readers down into completely unexplored territory, and expects them to keep track of all the bizarre goings on, as well as a peculiar set of characters whose motives are murky at best. (view spoiler)[ But gods are all about murky motives, right? (hide spoiler)]
Father took them in, a dozen children, after the disaster that destroyed their homes and killed their parents. Father took them in and made them his apprentices, asking each to apply their intellect to a different skill. Father can be cruel, but none of them would have survived without him. Now Michael speaks the languages of animals, while Jennifer studies the skills of the healer. David practices the art of war, while Rachel and her ghost children look into the future. Margaret visits with the dead, quite literally. But it's Carolyn, whose "catalog" is languages, who knows "every word that had ever been spoken," who first becomes curious about Father's prolonged absence. It's Carolyn, in many ways the most normal of her siblings, who comes up with a plan, and orchestrates the search for Father. It's also Carolyn who dares go out among the "regular Americans" to find help . . . in her own unique way. The Library at Mount Char is the story of her search. Sort of.
Along the way you'll be amazed and enthralled by the twistiness of the plot and the vividness of characterization and description. It's funny, it's gross, it's humane, and it's internally consistent. (So important!) Despite including talking animals, the disappearance of the sun, and repeated resurrections of the dead, the plot actually makes sense, and the resolution is bang on. The Library at Mount Char insists on careful reading (I re-read the first 90 pages immediately and have even more admiration for Hawkins' skill now that I see how it was put together), and requires patience as its layers unfurl. But if you're not grossed out by the mayhem, or offended by its (view spoiler)[ decidedly un-Christian view of (hide spoiler)] cosmology, you just might enjoy the hell out of this book. 5 stars, no questions asked. ...more
I finally finished, but honestly can't feel good about writing a review of The Bone Clocks, because my reading of it was so interrupted, so much in fiI finally finished, but honestly can't feel good about writing a review of The Bone Clocks, because my reading of it was so interrupted, so much in fits and starts. First, I had to return it to the library, mid-book; then I bought it on Kindle, which proceeded to give me problems at about 90% through. Obviously, problem solved, but I'm not sure it all sunk in, thematically speaking. I remember thinking "Wow! This is turning into some awesome urban fantasy!," then lost the thread at some point. I know I like Mitchell's writing quite a bit, as well as his ability to create and inhabit a large cast of very different characters.
Someday, I will obtain another physical copy and give it the better shot I know it deserves. ...more
This book opens with one of the coolest stories I've read in awhile: the short, brutal, and kind of hilarious "Kids." Within just a few paragraphs, LaThis book opens with one of the coolest stories I've read in awhile: the short, brutal, and kind of hilarious "Kids." Within just a few paragraphs, Langan had me both howling with uneasy laughter and wondering if he was plundering my mind for its deepest fears, and that's very much the way to my heart. (Other than through my chest, natch.)
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies has been on my TBR list ever since it came out last spring. I can only say I wish I'd gotten to it sooner, because this collection is as close to perfect as it gets. There are no bad stories here, not even any "meh" ones. Just a series of really inventive tales, well told.
Of course I had favorites. But I had several. Besides "Kids," which I won't spoil by even hinting at its contents, there was also "Technicolor," a wild (and darkly genius) take on "The Masque of the Red Death," which may have inspired me to re-evaluate Poe. (I secretly find him awfully florid.) There are two new-Lovecraftian tales: "The Shallows," a slice-of-life story about a man and his mutant crab, going about their business in a world where the Old Ones now control reality; and the truly disturbing "City of the Dog," which takes as its inspiration HPL's underused ghouls (think "Pickman's Model"), and turns Albany into a carnivorously haunted blot on the landscape. Finally, the closing, and longest, tale in the collection is "Mother of Stone," in which a bloody pre-historic rite is accidentally resurrected at an otherwise homey Hudson Valley inn. Also, do not miss Langan's story notes (which illuminate several of the stories in unexpected ways), and Laird Barron's hilarious afterword.
I liked The Black Church well enough -- great creepy premise (who doesn't love a cursed object?), and what might have been a very interesting historicI liked The Black Church well enough -- great creepy premise (who doesn't love a cursed object?), and what might have been a very interesting historical frame -- but it didn't feel fully fleshed-out somehow. Too long for a short story, but not long enough to deliver enough detail to do the premise justice. I liked it enough for a solid 3 stars; I just wish Tate had gone deeper into the history and mystery bits....more
Quick and dirty review, here. I really enjoyed this, my first Clegg novel (although I do love the creepy little illustrated story Isis). I see a lot oQuick and dirty review, here. I really enjoyed this, my first Clegg novel (although I do love the creepy little illustrated story Isis). I see a lot of comparisons to Salem's Lot in the reviews here, but beyond a surface similarity involving creepy kids (among others) terrorizing a small town, I didn't get that vibe. Also take note of the cheesy stock "creepy kid" cover on this edition. It's right out of the John Saul school of the 1970s, and doesn't do much to dispel those kinds of comparisons.
Although this novel was written in the 90s, Clegg's approach is all bleak 21st century horror, and far less sentimental than King's.* Though the characters are well-drawn, and the flashbacks to their youth key to the story, there's very little romanticizing of childhood, or small town life, or of anything really, in The Children's Hour. (Okay, there is a lost first love subplot, but even that is mostly a catalyst for some seriously disturbing sh*t.) It's pretty relentlessly grim, even nihilistic at times, and comes with a vastly higher body count than any King novel I can recall.
Also, the entities that haunt The Children's Hour? Are. Not. Vampires. They are more like horrible meat puppets, vampiric in some ways, yes, but definitely not your standard-issue bloodsuckers. This menace is a lot more unsettling, unearthly, demonic. (My comparison: in an upside-down and backwards way, this book recalls Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror," and freakish Wilbur Whateley hiding that nightmarish entity in his farmhouse.)
I don't want to telegraph much more of the plot -- suffice it to say I was actually unnerved by some of the imagery in The Children's Hour. One night I left my bedside lamp burning after reading. That's one of my highest compliments. It's a good thing he's prolific, because I'll be reading more Clegg.
* For the record, I love King and his elegiac, nostalgic, sentimental side. This just isn't that. ...more
I don't want to mislead anyone, so I'll say it up front: Dark Places is no Gone Girl. Flynn really hit the perfect balance of satirical yet bracinglyI don't want to mislead anyone, so I'll say it up front: Dark Places is no Gone Girl. Flynn really hit the perfect balance of satirical yet bracingly honest characterization, snappy style and ridiculously twisty suspense in her amazingly great newest book, so don't go into this one expecting another like that one.
Not to say that I didn't enjoy Dark Places, because I really did. It too is propulsive reading, twisty and funny in its own way; but the tone is much angrier, the people much poorer, the locales much bleaker, and the crime at the center of the story much bloodier. Some scenes are exceptionally violent, and some themes will (rightly) disturb.
At the tender age of seven our protagonist, Libby Day, became the only survivor of a late-night home invasion massacre that killed her entire family. Well, Libby was the only survivor besides her sullen teenage brother Ben, the accused and convicted killer, whom she damningly testified against at the time. That was 1985.
This is the present: Now a semi-reclusive adult living on the dregs of a charitable trust in a crappy Kansas City rental, Libby has many reasons to be bitter. For starters she's just been told she's broke, and her sob story has been usurped by a hundred others, so there's no more cash rolling in. She might actually have to find a job.
But then Libby receives a letter from the Kill Club, a group of true crime and serial killer enthusiasts, and it seems her troubles might be allayed for a bit. She's offered $500 to make an appearance at their meeting, along with the promise of collectors interested in purchasing Day family "memorabilia." Little does she know, some are outspoken advocates for Ben's innocence, who claim Libby was too young to understand what had happened that night, that her testimony had been coerced. They also have theories galore about who really done it. Libby is initially furious at being lured into their delusions, but the idea has been planted in her head. What if she had been wrong? And the can of worms that is Dark Places is opened.
Libby is another of Flynn's wonderfully snarkastic antiheroes. She's selfish, spiteful, lazy, entitled and completely hilarious. Almost nobody in this book is traditionally likeable, but Flynn somehow manages to find a sympathetic core in her characters. Dark Places is primarily Libby's story in the present, but is intercut with chapters from her sad, exhausted mother's point of view, and from her her angry brother's, on the day of the murders in 1985. Ben's story is especially difficult to read, showcasing as it does the unsavory side of teenage outcasts and suburban metalheads with nothing better to do than get fucked up, have sex, and break things. (Yes, that's what disaffected teens do.) The ludicrous "Satanic Panic" that gripped America for a dozen years or so before the millennium hangs heavy over Ben's conviction -- because of course if he dyed his hair black and listened to Venom and Slayer, it stands to reason he massacred his family for Satan.
Gillian Flynn is a master craftsman of snark-laced suspense, and Dark Places a unique take on the usual thriller. I alternately cackled and winced, as I put the clues together along with Libby and her new friends, traveling across a depressed middle America to confront potential witnesses and accusers, in search of the truth of that horrible night. A truth which, by the way, you won't see coming at all.
Loved it. Brilliant. A melancholy fairy tale about a wonderful and terrible time and place just beyond reach of adult memory, and quintessentially BriLoved it. Brilliant. A melancholy fairy tale about a wonderful and terrible time and place just beyond reach of adult memory, and quintessentially British in mood and execution, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman at his best. Though this is meant to be an adult novel, it's certainly no scarier than The Graveyard Book or Coraline. Which is to say: for children, but also capable of terrifying adults on an existential level. The beauty of Gaiman is that he just writes stories, and different people find different things inside them. In that way, his tales are mythic.
More specific thoughts to come . . .
P.S. And the shout-out to Timothy and the Two Witches? Also brilliant. Serendipitously, I recently unearthed my battered old Dell Yearling copy of that book, which I loved to death as a child. Time for a reread....more
The tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel playsThe tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel plays with Gothic conventions masterfully. An attempt to patch together the story of those dark years, The Accursed is the manuscript of amateur historian (and descendant of a "Cursed" family) M.W. van Dyck II. He presents a series of excerpts from journals, letters, newspapers, even a coded diary, written during the time of the "Curse," in an attempt to piece together the strange and horrible events that appear to have begun with the abduction of the innocent and beautiful Annabel Slade from the church on her wedding day.
Between the covers you will find demon lovers, murderous jealousy, miscegenation, beckoning apparitions, even a fairy kingdom. Also, an absolutely enormous cast of characters, some entirely fictional, like the sorely afflicted Slade family; others "real," like Woodrow Wilson (at the time President of Princeton University); ex-U.S. President Grover Cleveland; and Socialist writer Upton Sinclair. What I did not expect to find was a darkly satirical commentary on Christian piety, ivory tower backstabbing, gaping class division, the rise of Socialism, and, of course, the "Gothic novel" itself.