Overall, this seems like a nod to Frankenstein: Be careful of the forces you tangle with. The dedication page lists Mary Shelley as one of the writersOverall, this seems like a nod to Frankenstein: Be careful of the forces you tangle with. The dedication page lists Mary Shelley as one of the writers who 'built his [King's] house.' Frankenstein being one of my favoritest books, there's a lot to enjoy here.
The bulk of this book is Jamie Morton Growing Up. It begins with Jamie at six years old, playing soldier. It ends 55 years later, when Jamie is 61. So, just keep in mind there's a lot of growing up to do in fifty years. Annnnd some of the growing Jamie doesn't effectively do.
All in all, there are interesting bits and less interesting bits. But what keeps this at three stars for me is that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot driving the story.
The whole mess between Pastor Charles Jacobs, the Frankenstein of this particular story, and our hero, Jamie, begins when Jacobs loses his wife and child in a tragic accident. Jacobs freaks out, tells his congregation God doesn't exist, and then heads out into the world cursing God.
While this is an understandable reaction, and a great premise for a horror novel, I had a hard time buying into it for a very simple reason: I, as the reader, didn't love or care about Jacobs' wife or child. Patricia Jacobs is blonde and perfect and can play the piano really well. The narrator says that all the little boys had a crush on her -- but there's no real, actionable evidence of that in the text. No one offers to stay after to help her clean up the church, or is caught spying on her through keyholes. Ditto the little girls crushing on the pastor himself. But all I really get is blonde, perfect, piano player, dead.
I also didn't fall in love with the little toddler -- who was cute but could be just about any toddler.
It may sound cold, but if the death of these two people is the fuel driving the story it leaves me a little, well, cold.
(An aside -- at one point the narrator, Jamie, explains that the pastor has blue eyes and his wife has green eyes but the little boy has brown eyes...I'm not a geneticist, but I kept expecting Patricia Jacobs to turn out to be a cheating, drinking whore, who had the little boy with another man. That would've been a twist on the pastor's twisted twistedness. Strangely enough, I might've liked Mrs. Jacobs better.) ...more
There's a lot of pseudo-science throughout this, so you kinda have to bear with it. But it's Matheson. There are legit scary moments throughout.
One pThere's a lot of pseudo-science throughout this, so you kinda have to bear with it. But it's Matheson. There are legit scary moments throughout.
One part really gave me the shivers early on and it's entirely owing to Matheson's writing style. Our four protagonists (Fischer, Barrett, Edith, and Florence) have arrived at Hell House and are exploring this Everest of Haunted Houses. They come across an old recording of Mr. Belasco -- long dead -- welcoming them to his home. Fischer, who has been in the house before, explains this recording and Belasco's behavior:
"Guests would arrive, to find him gone. That record would be played for them." He paused. "It was a game he played. While the guests were here, Belasco spied on them from hiding.
"Then again, maybe he was invisible," Fischer continued, "He claimed the power. Said that he could will the attention of a group of people to some particular object, and move among them unobserved."
"I doubt that," Barrett said.
"Do you?" Fischer's smile was strange as he looked at the phonograph. "We all had our attention on that a few moments ago," he said. "How do you know he didn't walk right by us while we were listening?"
What's fascinating about this passage is that, as the four protagonists are studying the record and the phonograph, Belasco could have moved by them...and while the reader is reading, focusing only on this phonograph and this recording, could some important piece of information have slipped by?
Bird Box does everything horror novels do -- except it does it blindfolded.
At first it took me a little bit to suspend my disbelief. The opening chapBird Box does everything horror novels do -- except it does it blindfolded.
At first it took me a little bit to suspend my disbelief. The opening chapters explain a weird plague: people going crazy from seeing something. Really? But, once I got past that hiccup of "Yeah, right" and bought into Malerman's world the story was freakin' terrifying.
What this something is...who knows? The book is told from the POV of the people who live, so there's no way of knowing. Ever. If you take off your blindfold, you will go insane and kill things like your children before you kill yourself. So the survivors -- of which I would never be one in this world because I hate not seeing things -- have to deal with everyday things in a world where they're not allowed to look.
Malerman presents good questions that add to the tension: Walking into a house, how do you know you're not followed by one of the creepy killer things you shouldn't see? Can you trust the others around you to be careful? Can you walk around your neighborhood blindfolded in order to get food? And what the hell was the snapping twig sound? ...more
First, a brief low-down: A young man drives a Mercedes into crowd of job-seekers at a job fair. He kills eight people, wounds a bunch of others, and tFirst, a brief low-down: A young man drives a Mercedes into crowd of job-seekers at a job fair. He kills eight people, wounds a bunch of others, and then seems to drop off the face of the earth. Then we jump a year later and meet retired Detective Kermit William Hodges, a.k.a. Bill, who was the lead investigator on the case. Bill is depressed and considering suicide when the Mercedes Killer sends him a letter telling him to go ahead and off himself, unwittingly giving Bill a reason to live: namely, to hunt down the bastard who ran through a mass of people with a stolen Mercedes.
For those who may be looking for a horror fix...this isn't it. (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.) Mr. Mercedes has more in common with Sue Grafton and J.K. Rowling's alter-ego Robert Galbraith than it does with The Shining or It. As a reader, I don't mind that at all. The bad guy is definitely bad and the good guy has enough questionable motives to make it a quick, interesting read.
There are definitely some plot holes and leaps of faith that the reader has to make, but if you read it quick enough (like I did) you won't think about the problems long enough to truly distract you.
My biggest issue (not counting plot holes and leaps of faith) with the novel related to a more basic issue -- it felt like the beginning of a series. I felt only marginally introduced to the main character (strange, right?) and his former partners. I was only gonna give this book two stars...then, lo, I arrive at Goodreads and find this is the first part of a trilogy? I have rounded my star rating up in hopes that the next couple novels will fix the distance-y issues I was experiencing.
An example of a 'distance-y' issue (a term I have coined my own self): The sidekicks. Jerome and Holly. First off, the sidekicks don't come into the story in any measurable way until almost the end, which was a bummer because they were great foils for Hodges that were massively under-utilized -- they could have presented the arguments and counter-arguments to Hodges thought process...rather than the reader going "What the hell, dude?" And considering the pivotal roles they play, it's kinda disappointing to not spend more time with them.
But, I mean, dudes, it's still King. Plenty of attitude and spark through the pages to keep 'em turning. I especially love the emails between hero and villain. Snarky. Good times. ...more
I can't tell you how much I WANTED to LOVE this book. Everything about the premise was cool: a multi-media presentation, creepy isolated directors, cuI can't tell you how much I WANTED to LOVE this book. Everything about the premise was cool: a multi-media presentation, creepy isolated directors, cultish horror movies. There's nothing at all wrong with any of those things.
But about a third of the way in, I realized I was bored.
Here's McGrath, an investigative journalist who has had his life trashed because of his obsessive look into Stanislas Cordova -- a man who makes horror movies more legendary than anything Hitchcock or Wes Craven could dream of. McGrath believes Cordova does more than make cult-like films, he believes the director actually runs a cult of sorts. When Cordova's daughter, Ashley, kills herself, McGrath takes the opportunity to dig into Cordova once again -- this time determined to prove he was right about the reclusive genius once and for all.
McGrath suspects Cordova of everything under the sun: murder, mayhem, abuse, and witchcraft. He's running off an anonymous tip he got years ago, when a man named John called and warned, "There's something he does to the children."
Joined by Hopper, a street punk with a strange past, and Nora, a homeless girl with a strange past, McGrath digs into Ashley's death. Through the course of the investigation they break into all sorts of places (an asylum, a secret soiree, an antique store, and Cordova's compound residence). McGrath's apartment is broken into and all his research stolen. There are shadowy figures everywhere.
In spite of all this, however, I never felt a sense of threat.
Every situation that should be fraught with stress and danger just falls kinda flat. At one point, when the dynamic trio break onto Cordova's property, McGrath actually takes a nap after being chased by dogs. Admittedly, that's probably a result of the hypothermia he's suffering...but still, this is fiction. A nap? Really? The price of that real-life detail was tension. If a character can afford to fall asleep during his chase scene, there's not much for the reader to invest in.
And, unfortunately, one of the coolest conceits of the novel -- the multi-media excerpts from police reports, magazine articles, internet pieces, etc. -- flat-out stops a third of the way through. There are a couple articles at the end that read more like someone half-remembered to put it back in.
So, for me, it didn't ring the bells that I so wanted it to ring. I did enjoy the multi-media. I totally love the concept. The idea of evil overlord moviemaker is one of the coolest concepts on earth, with the possible exception of time-traveling Johnny Depp pirate overlords. In the end, I didn't fall in love with the characters and I really didn't feel they were ever in real danger -- which is one of the hardest blows to a mystery/horror novel. ...more
Flynn is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I loved Gone Girl with it's delightful jacked-up-ed-ness and this one, while not quite at messed up inFlynn is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I loved Gone Girl with it's delightful jacked-up-ed-ness and this one, while not quite at messed up in the head, has plenty of characters who are not-quite-right. In fact, I can't name a character who was right.
Innocent children? Not so much.
Survivor of a horrid family-murder? Not so likable.
Friends who are not friendly. Parents who can't parent.
This book is chock-full of troubled people and the trouble they cause other people. ...more
"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it." ~Stephen Colbert, quoted on the back of American Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it." ~Stephen Colbert, quoted on the back of American Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't
I think the first book review of the year should set the tone for the rest of the year. And what better way to start the year 2013 than reading and reviewing the book that has everything? In fact, it has so much of everything that I used every single one of my shelves to label it. I'm pretty sure that I'm still short a couple subjects.
Sure, I could've been reading Anna Karenina and learning about Imperial Russia with the rest of my book group instead of learning about the present American stuff I already know. But since my reading goal this year is 100 books - which is like reading everything - I should start my odyssey with the book that has everything. Everything American, that is. Anna Karenina just has affairs and trains and Keira Knightly and other stuff.
Tolstoy's book doesn't have anything that Colbert's book doesn't have.
Anna Karenina has extramarital affairs: America Again has illicit relations between politicians and food.
Anna Karenina has people who hate their jobs: America Again has resume how-tos.
Anna Karenina has 2-D: America Again has 3-D.
Anna Karenina has Siberia: America Again has North Dakota.
Anna Karenina was translated into English: America Again was written in American.
It's probably this last one where Tolstoy has managed to one-up Colbert. America Again has no, count them: none, award winning translators. We're just expected to understand paragraphs like: "But the Real Question is: are America's best days behind us? Of course they are, and always have been. We have the greatest history in the history of History. But never forget, our best days are also ahead of us, and always will be. Because America also has the Greatest Future in the history of the Future. It's our Present that's the problem...and always is be."
I mean, Colbert began two sentences in that paragraph with But. And fragments. You just don't do that. A good translator would've saved him some face-saving. ...more
This is one of the books that I always "meant to read" but never got around to, despite its tiny page count and ginormous reputation. Having read it,This is one of the books that I always "meant to read" but never got around to, despite its tiny page count and ginormous reputation. Having read it, I feel like I've checked off a big ol' checkmark - so that's pretty satisfying.
WARNING: Lots of spoilers ahead, but I'm not marking it off because I'm assuming a lot of people know the story, even if they haven't read the words....
A lot of you guys probably know that this book set off a couple trends - both rather disheartening:
1. (less serious, but distressingly calls to mind the fashion of today's Emo kids): men wearing yellow pants with blue overcoats - just FYI: this was not a good look then and it is not a good look now.
After the book was published, it was subsequently banned in many places in an effort to curtail young men from imitating the climatic suicide of Werther.
When I picked up the book and started reading I was vastly irritated with Werther as a character. Whiny, angsty, woe-is-me. My impression of Werther was that he was the needy kid in class who always gets up in your personal space and spouts pop-philosophy at you, trying to make you feel inferior so they fell better. Yet somehow you always feel sorry for him. Kind of. When he's not irritating the crap out of you.(You people know this kid.)
Enter Charlotte the Adored. Somehow I found myself rooting for Werther in his attempts to win her heart (mainly because it seemed like he was winning it - in spite of his stalkerish Edward-from-Twilight approach). But Werther's angst is further angstified by the fact that Charlotte's already engaged to another guy (Team Albert!).
Really, I'm kind of ashamed of myself because I thought that anyone who would imitate this guy and kill themselves was...um...stupid.
But what follows this opening sequence of seeming emotional ranting and woe is a troubling look at the psychology that precedes a suicide. It's almost textbook. And Werther made some convincing arguments for suicide - including knocking folks like me, who haven't been there - and therefore can't know:
"It is in vain that a man of sound mind and cool temper understands the condition of such a wretched being, in vain he counsels him. He can no more communicate his own wisdom to him than a healthy man can instil his strength into the invalid by whose bedside he is seated." (p 41)
In other words: you can't tell someone who is depressed to "get over it."
And Goethe's descriptions of Werther's actions match almost point for point the clinical symptoms of depression:
In the evening I say I will enjoy the next morning's sunrise, and yet I remain in bed; in the day I promise to ramble by moonlight, and I nevertheless remain at home. I know not why I rise, nor why I got to sleep.
But the piece that got me - and probably quite a few men in pre-Revolution France - was the argument between Werther and his rival Albert. They discuss suicide openly, and Albert claims it is the coward's way out: "It is much easier to die than to bear a life of misery with fortitude." Werhter's reaction is to compare suicide to a "nation which has long groaned under the intolerable yoke of a tyrant rises at last and throws of its chains - do you call that weakness?" His argument is basically that suicide is action, and therefore a braver thing than just taking what life throws at you.
(Which I disagree with, but his argument could be convincing to the right listener - as history has proved.)
As far as the writing itself goes, well, there's miles of flowers. (Sometimes literally.) The reverence of the 'sublime' (the sensation of being small when compared to nature) was on the rise when Goethe wrote, so there's lots of nature involved.
It's an epistolary novel, so it's all letters and journal entries. This can get tedious and there's an awkward transition after Werther pulls the trigger.
It's well worth reading, but make sure you're in a happy place before you jump in. And I hope your happy place doesn't involve yellow pants. ...more