This was not as good as its predecessor, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but then, most sequels aren't. This was stil~~Spoilers for the first novel~~
This was not as good as its predecessor, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but then, most sequels aren't. This was still pretty good; it was definitely interesting, and I found myself staying up late to read it, neglecting homework to read it, driving to work a little faster than usual just so I could get there a couple of minutes early and read it in the parking lot . . . you get the idea. It's very compelling.
This story picks up pretty much at the end of the last novel, with Lincoln recently assassinated. Like the first novel, it's told in third person, with first person block quotes throughout. Like the first novel, it's alternate history. And, like the first novel, it's all about one particular character who gets worn down by constantly struggling with a series of unfortunate, even tragic, circumstances.
So what's different? Well, pretty much everything else. For one thing, the main character is Henry, not Abraham. For another, the tone is very different. Whereas all the block quotes from the first novel are from Lincoln's diaries, narrating things as they happen, these block quotes here are from recordings of Grahame-Smith's (yes, he worked himself into the story again) interview with Henry. Because of this, these quotes are all told from the slightly more cynical perspective of someone who is recalling things from 150 years earlier. Instead of seeing a character's ups and downs through his own eyes as they happen, you get a relatively static picture of Henry from a long time afterward. Additionally, the 19th-century diary entries from the first novel felt like they took place in the nineteenth century. It was a little bit jarring, in this book, to hear a character narrate in the first person events from the 17th century, describing them with 21st-century analogies.
Another big difference is the gore. Wow, is this ever gory. Sooo many people (and children!) get shot in the head, and then come the detailed descriptions of which part of the head exploded first, and how the brains came out, and what they tasted like. There's violence TO the good guys, violence FROM the good guys, and violence that you find out only afterward didn't even happen, since it was just a daydreamt fantasy. This book even goes back to a death from the first novel that was treated vaguely (but very well-written), and re-tells it with this whole extra set of gory details that I did NOT need to know. And while the plot of the first book was pretty much a single issue, the Civil War and everything leading up to it, this book deals with pretty much every historical issue you can think of from Jack the Ripper to 9/11. It felt like a whole lot of name dropping, especially since so many of these events (in the story too, as well as real life) were unconnected. Henry goes to such-and-such famous place, meets so-and-so famous person (who really was either working for vampires, was working against vampires, or was a vampire). It's too disjointed. It also tends a little bit toward plot summary: I didn't feel I was reading a story as much as reading the Cliffs notes for one. There IS a main villain to sort of tie things together, but the motive, which isn't explained until late in the story, is pretty weak.
I thought Henry was a very interesting character in the first book, but he doesn't seem terribly interesting here. He doesn't even feel like the same character, and neither does Abe. Maybe it's because so much of the first book was about his friendship with Abe, and here he's pretty much a solo character for the first 2/3s of the story. Even when he and Abe are together, they don't really seem to connect. They had the mentor/student relationship in the first story, and here they're more equals. At least, that how one of the characters talks about their relationship, but it's never really shown in much detail.
In the first novel, they parted on very bad terms, and in that novel's epilogue, we see vampire Abe and Henry working together for a common goal. So when this novel came out, it seemed like we'd get something of what happened in between those two moments, of their reconciliation and coming to terms with everything. Turns out that there wasn't much. Every now and then in the early parts of the novel, Henry feels guilty that he and Abe parted on bad terms. When they finally reunite, it turns out that Abe is angry for a few weeks and then gets over it, and most of that happens outside the story. All that build up, and we don't get to see it. It's also harder to invest in the characters because so much of this story is action, without a lot of heart. There is a brief moment, early on, when Henry hears about the death of Abe's grandson. Remember how Abe's kids dying was such a big deal in the first novel? It's glossed over here. We don't see Abe's reaction to the news, and for all we know, he's completely unaware of it. And you remember all those strong supporting characters from the first novel? Joshua Speed and Mary Todd and everyone else who added so much? There aren't really any supporting characters in this story because of the episodic nature of it all. That's really too bad. The pacing is really weird, too. For example, he starts something really interesting with a surprise revelation about Adolf Hitler, but then just a few pages later, he abandons that whole idea, drops the thread entirely, and glosses through WWII. Meanwhile, the Cold War drags on, and on, and on, and so does Henry's backstory. In the first novel, Abe loses pretty much everyone and everything he cares about, and it's poignant and tragic. Here, Henry loses pretty much everyone and everything, but it's just not as deep, somehow. Maybe because there isn't as much of a connection to Henry to begin with?
So after all this, why am I giving a 4-star rating? Because the things it got right, it got very right. There are a few chapters with Arthur Conan Doyle, and a few with Mark Twain, and a few John F. Kennedy --chapters that hit the right mix of quirky and charming. There was definitely a sense of building up to something (though the quality of the pay-off is debatable). And Henry's melancholy and tiredness, especially near the end of the story, is very well portrayed. Most of all, I want to rate this book on its own terms, and it's a pretty good book. It's all very fine and dandy for me to sit here and list the things that are done better in the first book, but the truth is that if this were a standalone, or even a companion novel with different main characters, and not a direct sequel, I'd like it a whole lot better because I wouldn't be comparing it to anything. On its own, I'd say it's a very interesting/enjoyable/exciting/funny book to read, and recommend it to everyone. Go figure....more
This is a very nice collection of spooky stories. Some are darker, some are slightly humorous, and some are downright odd. Here are a few classic scarThis is a very nice collection of spooky stories. Some are darker, some are slightly humorous, and some are downright odd. Here are a few classic scary stories alongside some of R. L. Stine's original work. Here are vignettes, short stories, poems, and even a comic book. The only part I didn't personally care for was Stine's rewriting of Stoker's "The Judge's House." Sure, I get that Stine was writing for children, and I know Stoker's wording can be difficult at times, but the dense writing of "The Judge's House" is part of what sets so creepy a tone. Still, it's a minor complaint, and the overall collection is strong....more
I was hoping for sentences, for stories or jokes, and I was surprised to find only one word on each page. The book is profusely illustrated, and it isI was hoping for sentences, for stories or jokes, and I was surprised to find only one word on each page. The book is profusely illustrated, and it is funny enough for what it is. Quirky and slightly cute. I think my review is longer than the book....more
This collection of short stories provides a good mix of suspense, terror, and intrigue, with just the right amount of humor thrown in. Some of the stoThis collection of short stories provides a good mix of suspense, terror, and intrigue, with just the right amount of humor thrown in. Some of the stories are particularly innovative, and the various twists and turns are sure to keep you interested. A charming YA collection....more
This was dreadful. I listened to the audio dramatization in 3D sound, and honestly, the sound effects were the best part. The first half of the storyThis was dreadful. I listened to the audio dramatization in 3D sound, and honestly, the sound effects were the best part. The first half of the story was boring. The second half was a marginal improvement, insofar as I became interested in the characters and wondered how, or even if, they would escape the mist. The ending was the clincher, for me. Nothing is explained: not the origin of the mist (What/who is it? Where does it come from? Why does it hunt people?), not the fate of the main characters (They're driving away, but do they make it? Is there even a safe destination?), not the flying monster (It's huge, but it just . . . what? Ignores them?!? Why?), not even the main character's weird decision NOT to drive home to check on his wife (Is she alive or dead? And why the heck does he not seem to care one way or the other?). This "ended" so abruptly that at first I thought there'd be one more disc that I had missed. But no. It just ends in the middle of nowhere with a nonending. I had come to expect more from Stephen King. This was such a disappointment. Of course, this being an abridged adaptation, it may very well be that other people's creative decisions are in play here. I may give the original a chance at some point in the future....more
The premise is interesting, to say the least. In this alternate history, a scientist trying to find a cure for the plague is studying a particular gruThe premise is interesting, to say the least. In this alternate history, a scientist trying to find a cure for the plague is studying a particular gruesome strain that turns its victims into mindless, flesh-hungry corpses. When the kaiser, eager to kick-start WWI and start the business of conquering other nations, finds out about the zombie-plague sample, the scientist knows he must steal the sample and hide it from the Germans. The scientist is a nice enough character, but he's not exactly the most competent guy around, which is how he winds up on the Titanic, is noticed by Agent who follows him on board, and accidentally sets in motion a series of events that leave the passengers and crew zombified. The events are described very carefully; it's a little bit gory in places but not bad.
This was a nice enough story for what it was. It was not as well-crafted as Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, but it was nevertheless a straightforward and gripping novel. I put off pretty much everything to finish it once I started, so I feel it should earn some points for being so hard to put down. That said, I never felt that the zombie premise worked particularly well with the Titanic legend; the "real" elements of the story, like the ship and the people on it, almost got in the way of the story. Although the novel was able to make historical figures like Smith and Andrews seem fresh and interesting, they were still not as well-developed as some of the novel's original characters. This story might have been stronger if it had left off the Titanic elements altogether and told just a zombie story.
What you make of this story will probably depend on what you're looking for. I thought it was a compelling story, and it was sort of a fun zombie romp that (I think) was written to come out at the same time as the Titanic centennial. If you want a serious story with deep characters and epic struggles, then you should probably look elsewhere (although the title should have probably tipped you off a little). If, however, you'd enjoy a quick story that both recognizes and sort of winks at the Titanic's crew and passengers, then be sure to give this little book a try....more
I enjoyed the book overall. I adored some poems but found others to be tedious and confusing. Some poems were difficult to understand, and many, partiI enjoyed the book overall. I adored some poems but found others to be tedious and confusing. Some poems were difficult to understand, and many, particularly the poems written for specific people, might have been more enjoyable if the book had provided some kind of information or context. Some of these poems just don't work in a vacuum. These poems range from romance to horror to fantasy, and there is even a drama included at the end of the book. The poems are given in reverse chronological order, and I was glad of the opportunity to observe Poe's style and skill progress with time....more
Dan Choan’s Stay Awake: Stories is a collection unlike any I’ve read. Although the stories are in many ways horrifying – featuring suicide, attemptedDan Choan’s Stay Awake: Stories is a collection unlike any I’ve read. Although the stories are in many ways horrifying – featuring suicide, attempted murder, ghosts, a haunted house, and a two-headed baby – they tend to resemble psychological thrillers more than gothic horror or classic horror. Choan is wonderful at creating vivid characters, and their nuanced treatment lends these tales their power. I found the book strangely compelling.
That said, the book left much to be desired. In the first place, the stories are not very different from each other. Moods, motifs, and even plot points reappear in multiple tales. After a while, they almost sound the same. More importantly, the stories do not depict the dark inner thoughts of normal, everyday people who struggle to overcome the challenges of daily life (although Choan certainly could have written such a collection). Instead, these characters – these endlessly fascinating, likeable, pitiable, memorable characters – are people in extraordinary, borderline supernatural situations. And that doesn’t work so well because the characters, so central to Choan’s character-driven style, have become what they are because of plot, and the plots in this book are dreadful. Sometimes, not enough details are given about a character’s backstory for the reader even to know who killed whom! (And since suicidal/murderous parents, prescient children, and magical, lovesick fortune tellers are probably not the norm for most of Choan’s readers, the bare bones, at least, are essential.) Worse, the stories lack endings. It’s as though the last four pages of each story are missing, and the end comes just before the reader would understand what’s happening. I know that the minimalist style can be an art form, but I’m not a huge fan of minimalism to begin with, and it just doesn’t fit too well here.
I understand, of course, what this collection is trying to do. I realize that one of the main ideas behind it involves getting into a character’s mind at a given moment, and I know that by minimizing plot, the emotional developments are emphasized. However, the plots are too weird to allow the characters to work and too unfinished to stand alone. This collection is too middle-of-the-road to do anything well. It might have been a good group of horror stories, or a very well-written bunch of character studies. It remains a gripping book, morbidly fascinating in its own way, but it never really goes anywhere. It tries for a noir-ish psychological-thriller-feel, but it doesn’t quite pull it off.
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads giveaways. ...more
I am a huge fan of Poe, and I have read "The Tell-Tale Heart" several times. This time, reading the Creative Classic Series version, I still enjoyed tI am a huge fan of Poe, and I have read "The Tell-Tale Heart" several times. This time, reading the Creative Classic Series version, I still enjoyed the story. However, with all due respect for Byron Glaser's talent, I did not feel that the illustrations particularly added to the story experience. They did, however, make the story a little more fun for the child reader without distracting from the power of the text itself. A short biography of Edgar Allan Poe appears at the end, geared specifically toward young readers. If you want to introduce your child to Poe's short stories, this might be the book to get....more