Using Oelwein, Iowa as the petri dish, though one could easily substitute any rural farming town in the US that has been hit by economical disaster, M...moreUsing Oelwein, Iowa as the petri dish, though one could easily substitute any rural farming town in the US that has been hit by economical disaster, METHLAND is a confidently written, well-researched, accessible, and illuminating look into the methamphetamine "epidemic" and it's many probable causes. A riveting read.(less)
A good short story by the Clan McKing that reads like something King would have written circa Skeleton Crew. The included excerpts from King's forthco...moreA good short story by the Clan McKing that reads like something King would have written circa Skeleton Crew. The included excerpts from King's forthcoming The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep and son Hill's NOS482 are worth the price of admission by themselves.(less)
At times HOUSE OF LEAVES made my head (and my wrists) hurt, but I admit to enjoying the former sensation. The confusion and disorientation experienced...moreAt times HOUSE OF LEAVES made my head (and my wrists) hurt, but I admit to enjoying the former sensation. The confusion and disorientation experienced by the reader (and paralleled by the characters) seems essential in successfully traversing Danielewski's semiotic Rubic's Cube of a novel.
It's an interesting, quirky experiment in ergodic literature, and while I admit I did not find it completely successful as a story, there is plenty of meat to satisfy genre readers, assuming one can identify the genre at all. Is it (Lovecraftian/cosmic)horror? A love story? A satire? Or all three? Whatever the case, I'm glad I read it and for the most part enjoyed the experience, but it is not one I'm in any hurry to repeat. When you find yourself for the tenth time spinning the book around like a DJ at a rave in order to read the upside down or sideways text, it's easy to get distracted by the gimmick, even when the crazy layout serves a very obvious purpose.
And yet, despite my problems with the book, when the story worked, it did so fabulously. Danielewski is a remarkable (and remarkably intelligent - which might go some way toward explaining his compulsion for non-traditional narrative) writer, and the story, when indeed it works, is astonishing.
It's a tough book to recommend, and I doubt there will be much middle ground here among readers. You'll either laud it as a masterpiece, or loathe it as an overhyped, gimmicky, and frustrating exercise in self-indulgence. With this book, it's hard to argue against both verdicts, which only adds to its mystery. I would at least recommend giving it a try. As a reading experience, it's certainly an unusual one, and that in itself warrants a look.
Stephen King’s novelette, MILE 81, released today in digital format, tells the story of an abandoned rest stop, or rather the peculiar car that choose...moreStephen King’s novelette, MILE 81, released today in digital format, tells the story of an abandoned rest stop, or rather the peculiar car that chooses to park there, and what that car does when the curious get too close.
Ten year old Pete Simmons, brushed off by his older brother and his gang and looking for something to do, decides to investigate a nearby rest area, which, once a popular stop for hungry and weary travelers on the I-95 stretch of highway, is now little more than a dilapidated hangout for local teens looking for somewhere safe to get high and get lucky. Once there, Pete finds a bottle of vodka and samples it, which proves enough to knock him out for a few hours. While he sleeps, a mud-coated Station Wagon “of indeterminate make and vintage” shows up and parks outside. The door swings open, and nobody steps out.
I won’t say much more about the plot, because the story is too short for that, something I wish the publishers had kept in mind when coming up with the sales copy. Because unfortunately, if you’ve read the synopsis of the book, you know 75% of the story already, which, like movie trailers that give away major plot points, is annoying. One could argue that the “deaths” were mentioned in the publisher’s synopsis because there’s a lot more to the story. The problem, though, is that there isn’t. We get a nice setup, which reads like it would for a novel, in which Pete is introduced and sets off looking for mischief or adventure, whichever comes first. Then we get the car and the ensuing creepiness, and then (and this is my main beef with the story), we get a hurried, unsatisfying ending.
Which is unfortunate, because for the majority of MILE 81, I felt like I was a teenager again, reading CHRISTINE for the first time. The style is vintage, good-old fashioned King, and MILE 81 will inevitably draw comparisons to that novel, although it probably has more in common with FROM A BUICK 8 (both feature cars with questionable appetites), with a dash of the slow, creeping death of “The Float” (from SKELETON CREW) thrown in for good measure. And as is typical of King’s work, the characters are handled with the author’s trademark skill. Within the space of a page, we know them, which makes us care about what happens to them. And while I had issues with some of the children’s dialogue (both internal and external) not ringing true at times, I was willing to forgive it because in my experience, such minor issues are quickly forgotten in a King story by the time the real fun starts.
But sadly, the fun is all too brief in MILE 81, and in the end I felt as if I had read the opening chapter to an abandoned novel, or perhaps a FROM A BUICK 8 prologue that was abandoned in favor of not making the car so obviously homicidal. There are some great scenes here (one involving a tire is delightfully creepy, and the death scenes are pretty clever), but while I agree with the author’s contention that the novella is the perfect length for horror fiction (and FULL DARK, NO STARS is proof of his own mastery of that format), here it feels constricting, as if King had someone standing over his shoulder reminding him of the word count restrictions when he wanted to write a novel. It’s jarring, because everything to that point promises more of a payoff, which doubles the let-down when it doesn’t come.
Still, I recommend reading it, particularly if, like me, anything King writes is an automatic purchase for you. You’ll enjoy the ride, even if it doesn’t handle as well as the overenthusiastic salesman promised, but when it stops abruptly enough to give you whiplash, don’t say I didn’t warn you.(less)
While I struggled a bit to get into and enjoy this one, it ended up being a lot better than I expected, or had been led to believe by the legion of Ki...moreWhile I struggled a bit to get into and enjoy this one, it ended up being a lot better than I expected, or had been led to believe by the legion of King fans who have little good to say about it. I found it, in the end, to be an interesting exploration of love and particularly marriage, an appealing love story, seasoned with King's typical darkness. It won't rank highly on my King favorites list, but I liked it well enough to recommend it, particularly to those who consider King's work too brutal for them. This one is 90% love story, and a good one.(less)
Far from my favorite Lansdale. An early novel that suffers from typical early novel problems and shows none of the lyricism with language or literal r...moreFar from my favorite Lansdale. An early novel that suffers from typical early novel problems and shows none of the lyricism with language or literal restraint that classifies the author's best work. An ugly story about ugly people told in a fairly unpleasant manner. Lansdale only got better from here.(less)
An old-fashioned tale told in an old-fashioned voice, there is no denying the talent behind this book. An intriguing setup finds four college friends...moreAn old-fashioned tale told in an old-fashioned voice, there is no denying the talent behind this book. An intriguing setup finds four college friends reunited for a trek through a dense forest in Norway. All goes well until their leader decides to take a shortcut through "virgin" territory, and soon they find themselves stalked by something monstrous and ancient. All the ingredients are here for an excellent horror novel, but while more than competently told, instances of long-windedness, repetition, and exhausting detail, reduce the impact to a noticeable, if not significant degree.
And while the third act shift which has alienated many readers didn't bother me at all (I found it made perfect sense in the context of the story), I did feel it could have come sooner to avoid incongruity.
Still, I have to recommend Adam Neville's novel. He's a good writer, the atmosphere is palpable (I found myself checking my fingers for pine sap and grass stains), the imagination on display is commendable, the horror truly bone-chilling. My proviso is that the book will clearly not be for everyone (it could have been cut by 80-100 pages and been twice the novel), and requires a great deal of patience. But for the patient, the payoff and indeed the many genuinely unsettling sequences along the way, make the journey well worth taking.
Despite having the most linear plot of all the Parker books, THE UNQUIET is a superb read, and less cluttered than THE BLACK ANGEL. If there's a fault...moreDespite having the most linear plot of all the Parker books, THE UNQUIET is a superb read, and less cluttered than THE BLACK ANGEL. If there's a fault to be found it's in the lack of Angel & Louis, who ordinarily provide a welcome dose of humor in Connolly's grim tales.(less)
An uneven anthology that is nevertheless worth picking up based on the strength of a few gems, most notably the King/Hill collaboration "Throttle", F....moreAn uneven anthology that is nevertheless worth picking up based on the strength of a few gems, most notably the King/Hill collaboration "Throttle", F. Paul Wilson's "Recalled", "Comeback" by Ed Gorman, and "Return to Hell House" by Nancy Collins. (less)