"I recognize terror as the finest emotion . . . and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify . . . I will try to horrify;"I recognize terror as the finest emotion . . . and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify . . . I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud." -- Stephen King --------------------------------------- I have mixed feelings about this novel, but it doesn't surprise me that Stephen King loved it, since The Troop adheres closely to that advice Uncle Steve gave us way back in Danse Macabre. On the plus side, its premise is deeply disturbing and unfortunately, also plausible; its imperiled Scouts are sharply defined characters (within certain generic subsets); and the pace and mounting terror pretty much never let up. It also subverts the now-standard "band of childhood friends imperiled" genre -- this one's more like Lord of the Flies on bad acid than "Stand By Me."
However, this is possibly the single grossest book I have ever actually finished reading. (I threw Haunted in the free bin halfway through.) I am not a wuss, and given what I knew of the plot, I was pretty sure major yuckiness would ensue. But the flagrant, omnipresent, gross-outs were so extreme that I had to barely skim several whole scenes -- the reader's equivalent of covering her eyes at a scary movie. (I see in reviews comparisons to The Ruins, but The Troop tops it for me, no question.) What upset me the most (view spoiler)[graphic lab reports detailing brutal animal testing -- and yeah, I like animals better than people, so what? (hide spoiler)] might not bother you, but I can guarantee something in this book will turn your stomach. Which is probably an appropriate reaction, given the star of the show.
Cutter is a compelling writer, and I have high praise for his more recent The Deep, but the level of gore in this one ultimately got repetitive. The Troop might have been a better book with just a little more left to the imagination. Going with three stars....more
Wow. The Deep doesn't f&%k around. This book is the kind of old-school, trapped-with-the-monsters horror that used to keep me up with the lights oWow. The Deep doesn't f&%k around. This book is the kind of old-school, trapped-with-the-monsters horror that used to keep me up with the lights on as a kid.
The blurb is somewhat misleading, in that "the ‘Gets," the plague that's robbing people all over the world of their ability to remember anything (finally, even how to breathe), is only an opening gambit -- it's an interesting idea, but I was pleased to find out The Deep wasn't just another plague apocalypse to add to the pile.
Instead we get an account of the intrepid scientists working with a potential cure, a newly discovered substance they call Ambrosia. The catch? Its only known source is at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where a special facility has been set up for their work. That's nearly seven miles under the surface of the ocean, in Stygian darkness and under body-and-soul-crushing pressure. What could possibly go wrong?
Cutter's tale is a high-wire concoction of speculative fiction, isolation, claustrophobia, psychosis and gore. Disturbing, bleak, and a total page-turner anyway. As I said, old-school horror -- at times it put me in mind of The Shining, or "The Thing." (I've also heard "The Abyss," but I may need a rewatch, 'cause I don't remember anything about that movie except that the underwater scenes were famously shot in the reactor of an unfinished nuclear power plant. Which creeped me out in a totally unrelated way.)
Taking off half a star because (view spoiler)[ every time Clayton speaks I picture Sheldon Cooper AFTER the lab accident, which sometimes makes it hard to take the character seriously. (hide spoiler)] Despite that occasional distraction, I was thoroughly hooked by Nick Cutter's book and its straight-up terrifying twists. 4.5 stars. Now I'm gonna have to read The Troop, too....more
Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis is quite a trip. Initially, I gave it four stars, as I often do for an anthology -- every story doesn't workCthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis is quite a trip. Initially, I gave it four stars, as I often do for an anthology -- every story doesn't work for everyone, you know. But after some thought, I'm bumping it up to five because, thematically, it's something new (at least to me) in Mythos literature.
Madness, madness, madness. We all know the Old Ones bring madness to mankind. Happens all the time. But here's a twist: the motif of Cthulhusattva is pushing through that soul-shattering chaos to enlightenment on the other side. As Jones says in his preface,"When all is madness, there is no madness." A Tao of Cosmic Horror. What a fascinating way to break fresh ground!
Highlights for me included Gord Sellar's "Heiros Gamos," in which a self-taught acolyte experiences the ancient, cthonic Eleusinian Mysteries firsthand; "We Three Kings," Don Raymond's eerie revision of the Nativity story; and Rhoads Brazos' urban noir, "Feeding the Abyss," in which we meet the contractors who specialize in keeping the gods fed. Brazos' story also boasts one of my favorite sentences in the whole collection: "In a world of limitations, only a fool would hesitate to touch the infinite."
But the heart, and possibly also the point, of the collection is Ruthanna Emrys' "The Litany of Earth." Here we meet Aphra Marsh (of those Marshes), a mild, devout "Aeonist" in a world where they are a persecuted minority. Emrys turns our expectations of the Mythos gods inside-out (and lays in some fair social commentary in the process):
"Most religions consist largely of good people trying to get by. No matter what names they worship, or what church they go to, or what language they pray in . . . [a]nd every religion has its fanatics, who are willing to do terrible things in the name of their god. No one is immune . . . [i]t's a failing of humanity, not of any particular sect."
What if all those gibbering cultists we've grown so used to are the Aeonist equivalent of suicide bombers and snake-handlers? What if there's really another way?
I don't know why I've never read Tim Curran before - Corpse Rider is exactly the kind of horror that would have caused me sleepless nights, which I seI don't know why I've never read Tim Curran before - Corpse Rider is exactly the kind of horror that would have caused me sleepless nights, which I secretly loved, had I encountered it in my teens. (The Shining's dead lady in the bathtub prevented me from peeing at night for weeks. Good times.) In In this tale about a young woman who attracts the wrong kind of attention in return for a good deed at a cemetery, Curran conjures pure malevolence in a bloated, oozing sac, and it's delightfully sick. Also vividly imagined and colorfully described - his evocation of pure dread is particularly affecting. Not for everybody, but if you like a splattering of gore and rot with your terrifying haints, spend an afternoon with Corpse Rider....more
After the death of his wife, insurance salesman Oswald Priestly hopes for a fresh start when he moves himself and his teenaged daughter Amy into NazarAfter the death of his wife, insurance salesman Oswald Priestly hopes for a fresh start when he moves himself and his teenaged daughter Amy into Nazarill, a centuries-old hulk of a building newly renovated into "luxury apartments." Unfortunately the renovations haven't entirely effaced Nazarill's bloody past, which lies closer to the surface than either Priestly is prepared for. When fifteen year-old Amy's adolescent (and totally normal) rebellions start to puzzle, then annoy, and finally infuriate Oswald, Nazarill's dark heart begins to beat.
The story is told in alternating narrative voices, and readers are privy to the perspectives of both Oswald and Amy, which begin to warp as the house goes to work on them. While Amy struggles against childhood nightmares come to life, she also becomes driven to uncover the secrets of her new home; put simply, Oswald becomes obsessed with stopping her at any cost. We can only watch helplessly as their lives absorb the taint of old violence from Nazarill's walls.
Nazareth Hill puts me in mind of The Shining, in that it tells of a house that feeds on poisoning its tenants' minds (and fathers in particular), but its vibe is more a a very British old-school ghost story. It relies heavily on a classic slow build of suspense -- strange noises, bad lighting, doors just barely cracked open, and shapeless revenants glimpsed but not-quite seen. All this it does excellently (view spoiler)[Amy's adventures with the first floor in particular were spellbindingly awful for me (hide spoiler)], so when the shocks do come, they are really shocking. OMG-gasp-out-loud shocking.
Where Nazareth Hill falls a star short of perfect is in the unevenness of its characterization: who knew a middle-aged man could write a more nuanced teenaged girl than he could a middle-aged man? Obviously, readers are meant to sympathize with Amy, but it's a shame that Oswald, who starts out as a hapless widower coping with the mysteries of adolescence, becomes an entirely repulsive, over-the-top character. It feels plain lazy to make the heroine's father a total monster; even Jack Torrance retained a shred of humanity to the end.
4 out of 5 stars for excellence in atmosphere peopled by unevenly executed characters. ...more