I have always been a sucker for a good demonic possession story, and Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts has all the elements of a pretty great one.I have always been a sucker for a good demonic possession story, and Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts has all the elements of a pretty great one.
Part of what I enjoyed so much about the story was the deliberately ambiguous treatment of the difference between mental illness and demonic possession, a fine line I have often pondered myself. The afflicted fourteen year-old Marjorie even tells her sister she's faking, though clearly something is very wrong. The addition of a reality TV film crew -- invited to film Marjorie's exorcism to help defray her rising (and ineffectual) medical treatment costs -- only ups the ante, as we wonder if it's Marjorie or the demon playing to the cameras . . . and playing with her rapidly fracturing family.
The story unfolds primarily through the memories of Marjorie's then-8-year old sister, the gregarious Merry, who both loves and fears Marjorie in equal measure. The two have always been close, but much of the older girl's uncanny new behavior seems to manifest just for her, and Marjorie's midnight visits to Merry's room are among the most chilling moments in the novel. Maybe the demon is interested in the little one, too?
Finally, for us nerds who love the whole meta-thing, the book is laced with fun horror references and shout-outs, from contemporary to classic. Hommage is paid without imitation, for the most part. (There is one major plot twist you may face-palm yourself for not picking up on beforehand -- I know the work being referenced, and still didn't twig to it. Made for a nice "Oh no you di'n't!" moment, though, before the face-palm and creeping shame at my own obliviousness, that is.)
The only part of this book I wasn't overly fond of were the scattered blog entries from a horror site doing an in-depth re-watch and post-mortem of the resulting TV show (called "The Possession"). I'm not sure they added much to the story, and the verbiage was annoying -- probably like a real teenager's blog, now that I think of it. But enough of that.
Overall, I'd give A Head Full of Ghosts 4.75 stars. It's entertaining, creepy, and really hard to put down. I'm about to go order a copy of my own, because this one might benefit from additional readings. Wonderfully done!
As far as I can tell, Lindqvist's work just keeps stronger, and Harbor is his best novel yet. More psychologically subtle than Let the Right One In, aAs far as I can tell, Lindqvist's work just keeps stronger, and Harbor is his best novel yet. More psychologically subtle than Let the Right One In, and more exciting than Handling the Undead, this tale of a father's grief, his family's fascinating secret history, and a tiny island's ancient hunger is long, but never feels that way. It's also spooky without being grotesque, moving without being cloying, and chock full of that cosmic dread I like so very much. I had a very hard time putting it down at night.
(And, just as an aside, I really don't get all the lazy blurb comparisons to Stephen King, or Neil Gaiman, for Pete's sake. I love both of those guys, and Lindqvist just might be in the same league, but he's his own, original animal.)...more
"I can't believe you just quoted a Steve Miller tune to the leader of an alien race."
Scalzi says, in his Author's Note, that Agent to the Stars was hi"I can't believe you just quoted a Steve Miller tune to the leader of an alien race."
Scalzi says, in his Author's Note, that Agent to the Stars was his "practice novel," a revelation that makes me squirm with jealousy. Rarely is a first novel so well fleshed out, or a first contact story so goofily appealing. AttS, while not a deep work of literature, is full of snappy dialogue and memorable characters and is the perfect choice for a a breezy, quirky summer read. I honestly laughed, even snorted, out loud. Couldn't ask for more....more
I'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus materiI'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus material in Unseaming, I was instantly hooked. (Proof: I haven't reviewed Unseaming yet.)
Dark, disturbing, and inventively disgusting, The Black Fire Concerto envisions a post-apocalyptic America where The Storms, otherworldly and deadly, have mutated the land and its people. They also brought magic, new and powerful and sometimes very black. Here there be ghouls -- and worse than ghouls: cannibal cultists and megalomaniac magicians who aren't afraid to harness the horrors the Storms left for their own ends.
This book really is unflinchingly gory and body-horror heavy, but there's also something that is bright and refreshing about The Black Fire Concerto: its two protagonists. Erzelle, a young harpist in servitude as house musician at a gruesome gastronome's club, and Olyssa, the imposing, mysterious traveler that rescues her -- are both women. So rarely do we see women cast as epic heroes that Allen's tale took me by surprise.
And it certainly is something different. When Erzelle joins the majestic Olyssa (think King's Gunslinger crossed with the goddess Athena in a bad mood) on a quest to find Olyssa's missing sister, they face events and obstacles by turns magical and utterly nightmarish. But it's their master-and-apprentice pairing that makes the story pure gold. I don't usually get exerted over lack of adequate female representation in fantasy, but I guess it must be pretty bad for me to react so strongly to seeing it done right.
Not for everybody, and definitely not for the squeamish, The Black Fire Concerto is luxuriously nightmarish dark fantasy, and I'm going to be tapping my foot impatiently for the next book in "The Stormblight Symphony." Now, please, Mr. Allen....more
I never want to comment too directly on these, cause spoilers suck. I will say this: (view spoiler)[ nice job on the time jump/reboot. Watching them gI never want to comment too directly on these, cause spoilers suck. I will say this: (view spoiler)[ nice job on the time jump/reboot. Watching them get settled would of course have been dull. Great reintroduction to everyone in their new roles. (hide spoiler)] So good move there. I'm teetering on a 4.5, but there was one moment, one truly terrifying panel, that pushes it to 5 stars. ...more