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3.51  ·  Rating details ·  544 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Andrew Waggoner has always hung around with the losers in his school, desperately hoping each day that the school bullies — led by Drake — will pass by him in search of other prey. But one day they force him into the woods, and the bullying escalates into something more; something unforgivable; something unthinkable.

Broken, both physically and emotionally, something dies i
Paperback, 260 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by
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Ellen Gilbert I just finished the book and am still pondering over it myself. It came to me that when Andy took the Cup during the treasure hunt then presented it…moreI just finished the book and am still pondering over it myself. It came to me that when Andy took the Cup during the treasure hunt then presented it to Angie, that, OH, THIS IS AN ALLUSION TO THE GRAIL MYTH! From that point on, I began to see in the story the devastation of the masculine due to the suppression/denial/hatred of the feminine and the wasteland that results. Andy's father has built a mythology over the years about the sword that he brought home from the war. Every time he tells the story he changes the events. At the end of the book he finally tells his son the truth: he simply discovered the sword stuck in the mud and pulled it out. This, I suppose, is a reference to the Arthurian legend where Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and then becomes king. King Arthur sent his knights on a quest for the grail. The sword is symbolic of the masculine; the cup, or grail, of the feminine. The men and boys in the story are de-masculinized and the women and girls are marginalized. The king in the castle of the grail is wounded "in the thigh" -- most interpreters believe this to be a reference to the penis, as the symbol of fertility and regeneration. All around the castle of the Grail King is a wasteland because of the king's wound and subsequent inability to care for his kingdom and renew the land. Andy represents the Grail king. There is obviously a lot more that can be extracted. A very dense and interesting novel. (less)
Chris Donaldson Yes, but really more psychological thriller. There's not a huge amount of blood though there is some.

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The Grim Reader
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are quite a few things that become apparent whilst reading ‘Chalk’ by Paul Cornell. The first is that Cornell is a big fan of popular tv show Doctor Who (edit: I recently found out he is one of the writers for Doctor Who! Who knew?! Not me), brought about by the many references to the popular programme. Second is that he is a fan of 80s pop culture and thirdly is that Cornell can write a very powerful and moving story.

Set at a private school during the 1980s, Paul Cornell’s ‘Chalk’ is the
Chalk by Paul Cornell is one of those books that causes a struggle within the reader as to if the entertainment value overcomes the brutal and horrific events that are depicted in the story. Chalk is a story of extreme bullying, where the main character is physically altered by the bullies with a knife. The rest of the story becomes a revenge story that is very reminiscent of Carrie by Stephen King but only with a young male in Britain. I want to mention that this takes place in the countryside ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
So um. This was messed up Like, The Wasp Factory level disturbing. These two books share a lot of similarities- mainly all the emotionally detached murder, isolation and themes of genital mutilation. o.0 Yeah.

Please excuse me while I go read a My Little Pony book or something. My brain feels traumatised.
Jordon Greene
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a great read. I'm not usually one for paranormal stories, but this one blends it in so fluidly, almost under the radar, to the point that it actually felt natural. Andrews's story of revenge is cold and calculating at times, brutal at others. If you enjoy the more graphic depictions you should enjoy this. It's not extreme, but enough. I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Cornell's Chalk.
Anindita,  A Bohemian Mind at Work
Full review: A Bohemian Mind at Work

Paul Cornell's latest dark fantasy novel focuses its spotlight on a little town where chalk soil is a natural occurrence. Here, the lives of a handful of teenagers raised in Margaret Thatcher's England change forever due to a cruel turn of fate.
As Paul Cornell has described his work during the cover reveal on, he doesn't expect us to enjoy Chalk. I assure you, sir, I haven't enjoyed this book. I have cringed, wanted to throw up, tried reading romantic
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Has anyone written a PHD thesis on the importance of bullying as a subject in horror fiction? I have a theory (it’s only a theory) that all horror writers and readers were bullied, and that the horror genre itself is a form of revenge.

Anyway, Chalk is a novel that has bullying at it’s heart. The plot is structured by revenge. An injury is done, a crime commited against the innocent narrator, and the people who did this are picked off one by one. It got me thinking, why is revenge so powerful an
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 21st March 2017

I don’t quite know how to rate this, because it’s not much my thing. It’s a bit too close to horror, it’s so grim, and the teenage boy fixation with sex was, well, rather beyond my experience or anything I’m interested in. Bullying I know well, and Cornell captures it wonderfully — but I can’t say beautifully, because who could call that beautiful? The magic is weird and wondrous and I do enjoy the way it’s tied in with history an
Alex Sarll
Paul Cornell's latest novel opens with a horrific scene of bullying gone too far (as if it's not always too far, but you know what I mean - the point when the everyday shittiness descends to a whole other level), which by taking place in a particular spot of Wiltshire countryside enables a subterranean vein of folk horror to erupt into the Byzantine hierarchies and ritual (mis)behaviours of a 1980s English schoolyard. And having negotiated that terrain not so many years later, while dreading dou ...more
Todd Bristow
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one was a pleasant surprise. Just when I thought I know where it was going, BAM! It wasn't what I thought at all. It's fantastic when you finds a book that turns your expectations on their ear. It hit a lot of my sweet spots:

1. It's British. Very British.
2. The horror is unabashedly so.
3. It's set in a school in the 80s and the music plays an important role.
4. The history and lore of the setting is used to great effect.

Highly recommended.
Tim Hicks
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, horror
Didn't work for me.

I see the bones of a powerful story. Bullying. The magic of the chalk.

Then I see the compulsion to jam in far too many references to pop music.
Then the idea of the semi-invisible friend, and Weird Louise, and Compulsion Angie, ...

It felt to me as if this is where Cornell said, "This isn't working," and got out his book on surrealism and a bag of magic mushrooms and went to town.

I guess it comes down to how you read a certain scene. (view spoiler)
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Andrew Waggoner is an unremarkable schoolboy, just trying to get by without drawing attention of the school bullies. He is however, tragically and horrifyingly, unsuccessful. Something terrible happens to Waggoner and it awakens a power which promises to seek revenge on his behalf and heal him of his wounds. Another Waggoner, visible only to Andrew, starts to wreak havoc at the school.

This will not be an easy read, but it is an incredibly powerful story about coming of age in the 80s, when assau
Vignesh Kumar
Gah. What did I read??!

I was really anticipated to read this as the blurb sounded promising. Revenge? Fantasy against Bullying? Join Me. That's why I took this book and read. But it's not good. I did NOT like it.

The writing was very weird and blunt but sometimes it was good. Only sometimes. Andrew Waggoner after getting bullied by Drake and his lot so brutally both physically and mentally, turned up to an ancient site of power where another being is born who is unnatural and paranormal. What hap
David Harris
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

This was one of those rare books that stopped me in my tracks. At times not an easy read, I felt it spoke to me, making the story involving, in places painful, but above all, personal.

I should explain that at school in the late 70s/ early 80s I was bullied quite a bit (not as badly as Andrew in this book though!) I was a bit swotty and not a mixer, so within a few pages, I identified strongly with Andrew Waggoner.

Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Andrew Waggoner is a normal schoolboy who tries to keep out of the way of the Drake and his fellow school bullies. Then one Halloween they take him to the woods and take the bullying a horrific step forward. Andrew will never be the same again. He seeks revenge, aided by the ancient power of his West Country surroundings.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. Any book which focuses on bullying is unlikely to be a pleasant read but very quickly this gets really horrific. Throughout the book the
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly moving. Visceral shocking.


Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dark supernatural horror tale which explores British culture and toxic masculinity with a supernatural gothic twist.
The Grim Reader
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really liked this. Review soon.
Chalk is a disturbing and engaging story from the point of view of Andrew Waggoner, a bullied boy in a private school in England's west country.

After the boy's own personal hobgoblin and his lot of cronies go much to far in their bullying, Andrew gains the attention of the supernatural forces lingering in the chalk drawings, barrows and henges of the area.

Before long, another Andrew Waggoner is following him around, and sometimes taking his place. This new Waggoner is there to enact Andrew's rev
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A pretty dark, sad story about bullying that reaches a level of violence that breaks Andrew Waggoner, physically and mentally. There are ancient powers and pop music that take us through the journey with Andrew as he slogs through the misery of the aftermath.

Andrew has spent most of his school years with a small group of "loser" friends, and staying under the radar of the popular jocks so as to avoid their constant taunting and humiliation towards other classmates. When Drake and his crew force
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-on-kobo
If the ending had gone differently, this would have been the greatest PSA against bullying since Stephen King's Carrie.

Ending aside, I enjoyed this, with its dissociative protagonist (sort of) and its blend of old gods, the ones who inspired monuments like the carvings of horses into chalk hills in England, and new gods, who communicate through the songs that top the pop charts each week. And given the story is set in the '70s, the songs those gods are choosing are from my youth (Culture Club e
3,5 stars.
Paul Cornell creates in "Chalk" a world that somehow reminded me of Ian Watson' "The Fiery Worm", maybe because it has the same mixture of old pagan tradition, schoolboys with their cruel bullying and budding teenage sexuality, and it is used to create a very specific brand of supernatural horror. Cornell seems to be much more succesful in this task - in "Chalk" he uses well-known motifs to tell a story that seems surprisingly new. It's bleak, it's sad and - it works.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Good for the most part, though it goes from slightly surreal to incredibly surreal (literally incredibly; during the climax my suspension of disbelief failed entirely) and the ending felt weak and rushed. I think the author was going for "enigmatic" with some of it but it just felt lazy to me.
Ginger Nuts
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing

chalk marks somewhat of a departure for author Paul Cornell, who is best known for his series of London based urban fantasy police procedurals, his work on Dr Who, Chalk makes a sharp left turn into a dark and gritty horror realism with this brutal tale of revenge and retribution.

Set in the not too distant past of a Thatcherite United Kingdom Chalk's unreliable narrator and protagonist Andrew Waggoner recounts his story of his unhappy time at school and the sadistic event that set him on a path
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
maybe a 3.5, not quite there yet... maybe after this review is written...
what a weird tale... i got the impression the author was attempting something Cthonic with this one, and it just sorta never happened... i liked the writing style, kinda choppy, but much like how a youngish boy would spin a yarn... well done on the school atmosphere and the interrelationships with the boys/boys, boys/girls/, girls girls... weird insertion of the music angle, though it fit a bit better as the story progresse
Greg Markwardt
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
3.5* rounded down. Chalk was an awkward book. It reads like a young adult novel that should not be read by young adults. That is until the very end were everything gets bizarrely surreal and confusing. It starts out shocking but then quickly tapers down until it comes to that strange crescendo at the end. It wasn't all together bad. It had a fun premise and setting that I really enjoyed. (The book is very British. So much so that I had to Google certain phrases and terminology) The chalk drawing ...more
Maggie Gordon
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
Chalk feels like Stephen King writes school boys in Britain. It's an eerie, haunting book about violence among children, revenge, and making deals with entities that you really should leave alone. It ramps up the supernatural aspects slowly, making it easy to just assume that the narrator is making things up, but it quickly becomes apparent that something far more than school yard bullying is at play here.

I am not a huge fan of this particular style of horror, so the fact that I enjoyed the book
So. That was a thing I read. A thing that really wasn't for me.
Sea Grace
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
First of all, this book has been written before. It’s called Carrie: the main difference is the gender of the protagonist.

Second of all, the real horror of this book isn’t supernatural: it’s toxic masculinity. For people who’ve been harmed by toxic masculinity, this book is just one long trigger that tries to glorify the cycle of toxic masculinity.

The protagonist in this book, for example, comes into his feeling of power by continually sexually harassing and slut shaming a girl on his bus. The
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ereader
Set in rural Britain in the 1980s, Chalk is a dark, disturbing and at times disgustingly grim story; but an emotive and unusual read.

It’s hard to say much without spoilers but this book is about a young boy's extremely brutal bullying at school and the ways he exacts revenge. Everything, of course, gets way out of hand.

This book made me feel very uncomfortable, I suppose I clearly didn’t hate it as I managed to finish it, but there were things I definitely hated about it; some parts were truly
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Paul Cornell is a British writer of science fiction and fantasy prose, comics and television. He's been Hugo Award-nominated for all three media, and has won the BSFA Award for his short fiction, and the Eagle Award for his comics. He's the writer of Saucer Country for Vertigo, Demon Knights for DC, and has written for the Doctor Who TV series. His new urban fantasy novel is London Falling, out fr ...more
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“I knew now that the end of the world was coming not from the future, but the past.” 0 likes
“Do you think there’s intelligent life in space?’ He grunted. ‘Mum always says they’ll be just like us. But I’d hate it if they were just like us.” 0 likes
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