If anyone ever asks me why I'm terri-fricking-fied of space/space travel, I will hit them in the nose with this book and scream "EDUCATE YOURSELF" whiIf anyone ever asks me why I'm terri-fricking-fied of space/space travel, I will hit them in the nose with this book and scream "EDUCATE YOURSELF" while building a sturdy, solid roof over my head. I will also reread this book on occasion, because it is a brilliant work of suspense and horror - why isn't this marketed as horror? THIS is what horror is all about - and I will probably need to remind myself why I am putting a significant boundary between myself and the final frontier.
I'm putting the rest of the review in a spoiler, because, like Dexter says in her review that encouraged me to keep reading past the first few very slow (but necessary) chapters, it's really best to know nothing about this book when you're going in.
(view spoiler)[It sort of reminds me of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, a bit. Annihilation and this book are the only books that I've ever been truly unnerved by. Even The Stand didn't get under my skin like this and Annihilation did. I think most horror tries to get by on human or humanoid vehicles of terror - violent people, ghosts, dolls, demons that always tend to make very human-sized destruction. Stuff like that.
But Living Hell gets at what is, honestly, far more terrifying: massive, inhuman, impersonal forces, on a level so alien that there aren't really words to describe them, and so alien that they don't even think about thinking about us. "Alien" doesn't even cover it, tbh. I think "other" gets at it best, though in a weak sort of way. That's honest to goodness terror, and the root of really effective horror. Aliens like the Borg aren't really terrifying because we can grasp them, conceptualize them; they can be scary, sure, but not /terrifying./
Living Hell is terrifying. Being shown the limits of human understanding, being put at the mercy of a force so much bigger and so /other/ that there is /no way to fight it/ besides giving up your own humanity, is terrifying. And I'm going to start building my underground bunker tomorrow. (hide spoiler)]...more
I'm so conflicted. On the one hand, it was really effective with how it handled the horror/suspense. On the other hand, it wasn't really that effectivI'm so conflicted. On the one hand, it was really effective with how it handled the horror/suspense. On the other hand, it wasn't really that effective after all.
I don't know? When I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it, and it was hard to get out of that 'I'm reading a horror book' mindset. It felt like I was the one with Leena's issues. I felt like my house was trying to absorb me.
But when I WAS reading, those sensations vanished totally. I critiqued it as I read, made bored comments to myself, counted how many pages were left. There weren't that many truly 'scary' moments, really, and I didn't care about anyone that didn't turn into an antagonist later on, so it was really hard to care, a lot of the time. Leena was pretty interesting, I suppose, and David and Celeste were definitely not completely cookie-cutter characters. But they weren't really... LIKABLE. It was hard to actually care about them, except as vehicles for a horror aspect that was really missing. Baer's writing was clear and serviceable but nothing spectacular.
But whenever I put the book down, I could feel it! I could feel the horror and the depression that they were going through. The atmosphere was there, definitely. It was just hard to focus on that atmosphere when I was actually reading the book, because so much of it was just teenage drama and tantalizing promises of horror that got old fast because they were never kept.
I don't know. Three stars, maybe three and a half for that fantastic atmosphere that only came when I wasn't distracted by the book. (Also I'm not sure how well the subjects of mental illness and addiction were handled. Sometimes it seemed okay, but then some things just seemed really condescending and clichéd. But I'm not an expert on the subject.)...more
Maybe it's not technically horror. Horrified me, anyway - at least a few scenes.
Horrifying and depressing and heartbreaking? Yes. Awesome and beautifuMaybe it's not technically horror. Horrified me, anyway - at least a few scenes.
Horrifying and depressing and heartbreaking? Yes. Awesome and beautifully written? Yes.
Maybe it's cliché, but my favorite scene was very much the scene with Simon and the Lord of the Flies. Creeped me out so much. I'm glad I read that at 11 AM with my brother howling in the background. Otherwise, I may have been disturbed.
Simon was amazing - I love Simon so much. And Piggy. Piggy, you turned out so awesome. Ralph was ridiculously fun, too. Jack and Roger - scary. But not nearly as scary as the Lord of the Flies himself. Or itself? Either way. I read the afterword beforehand and knowing the origin of the Lord of the Flies made it even more terrifying, somehow, even if the skull wasn't meant to be Beelzebub himself.
All in all, officially one of my favorite classics....more