TTT: If You Like Horror

TTTThis week has been the first topic in a good long while that has actually appealed to me. However, that didn’t make it easy. In fact, this was pretty difficult. I don’t think I read enough “super popular books” to have a base to recommend from. Nor do read enough in any genre to really have enough books to recommend. Well, with the exception of maybe one…

Lo, I present to you my top ten books to read if you like “super popular author” Stephen King, or the horror genre in general. There is a range of horror represented here, but all kinds of horror Stephen King has dabbled in (because really, what type of horror hasn’t he dabbled in?)

The Haunting of Hill House – A classic haunted house horror story with a psychological twist. This is possibly my very favourite horror novel, ever.

Haunted – Erring on the graphic line of the horror genre, but being no less creepy for it.

I Am Legend – Science fiction meets creature feature. The true horror in this book is its tense psychological terror.

Apartment 16 – Very reminiscent of Stephen King, generally. Demons and ghosts and creepy happening in this flat.

Prince of Thorns – A true horror in that this book deals with violent murder, rape and war in a post-apocalyptic Middle Age-like setting.

Pandaemonium – More of a horror comedy, i’m sure Christopher Brookmyre doesn’t know how to make his readers not laugh, even in the midst of, well, pandemonium.

The Midwich Cuckoos – Everyone in a small town falls asleep, during which time all the women become pregnant. Creepy horror at its very best.

Tiny Deaths – This as a book of short stories, all written around the theme of death. Some are more horrifying than others, but what’s more horrifying than facing your own mortality?

Party Monster – Is outrageous horror a thing? This book makes it a thing. Sex, drugs, murder and dismemberment with the Club Kids!

Florence and Giles – Starting off as a quiet and unassuming creepy house horror, this book evolves into something supernatural before dealing an altogether different twist.

TTT: Authors

TTTI found this one pretty easy. There aren’t too many authors I read just because—without knowing more about the book itself. My original list had about 13 names, and it wasn’t too hard to cut that down to 10. These authors are ten names that have me reading any book by without question.

Christopher Brookmyre – Comedy, crime, satire, well-rounded characters. The day a Brookmyre book doesn’t make me laugh out loud will be a very sad day indeed (and a day that will never happen).

John Wyndham – Insightful science fiction. This man has not written a word I haven’t loved.

Patrick deWitt – I can’t even categorise deWitt’s genre… sharp, witty contemporary. Is that a thing? With only two books written, i’m already 100% hooked.

Stephen King – Horror. As King has said himself: he is the literary equivalent of a bigmac and fries. It’s not the most nutritious meal, and you don’t want to eat it every day, but it’s bloody tasty when you have it.

Shirley Jackson – Horror. Jackson is more classic horror. More chills and meaning. More genuinely scary.

William Golding – Another author who is hard to pigeon hole, because his subject matter and message vary so much from book to book. He is consistently well-written and interesting, though.

George Orwell – Intelligent, insightful and ahead of his time. I’ve only read a couple of Orwell’s books so far, but I look forward to more.

Aldous Huxley – I file Huxley close to Orwell, but not because of Brave New World and 1984, as you might expect. Mostly because they strike me as two people who would have interesting conversations—they both have worthwhile and intelligent things to say.

J D Salinger – Some authors are just in a genre of their own, and I think Salinger is one. He has such a way with words, so simple, but so unique for his characters. He gets across concepts and personality so swiftly that it looks easy.

Ursula Le Guin – Science fiction that holds such imagination and exploration. I adore Le Guin a lot. I can’t get enough of her work, and hold very high—and possibly unfair—expectations of her.

TTT: Quotes

TTTI am all over this week’s topic. I love quotes. I love it when a short section, thought, moment or phrase from a book just stands out to me. When something makes me stop, makes me smile, makes me go, “Yes!” Or causes me to pause and think, and wonder and alter my thought process. I love it when something, some feeling, some concept, is summed up so neatly in a handful of words.

I am slightly obsessed with quotes, and more of my favourites can be found at my goodreads account or my twitter.

I usually expound upon my choices for Top Ten Tuesdays, but this week I am going to stand by the wise words of my dearest Zellaby, and let the quotes speak for themselves…

“Some quotations,” said Zellaby, “are greatly improved by lack of context.”

― John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos

“Naturally, I never told him I thought he was a terrific whistler. I mean you don’t just go up to somebody and say, ‘You’re a terrific whistler.’”

― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“He would say that God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have no tail and no flies.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

“A fool tries to look different: a clever man looks the same and is different.”

― John Buchan, The 39 Steps

“Proud and insolent youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet thy doom.”
“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “have at thee.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Wendy

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”

― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

“If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.”

― Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.”

― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

TTT: Female Heroes

TTT I hate the word “heroine” like i hate the words “actress” and “comedienne” and the connotations that they are somehow lesser than heroes, actors or comedians. Why the need to distinguish the sex between two people who are doing the same thing? So yes, this is a list of my favourite female heroes.

One of the obvious choices is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and as much as i love her, i figure at least 80% of people writing for this topic will include her in their list. So i picked 10 others. As it is, i had to cut this list down to 10, so. Sorry Katniss!

Mrs Twit from The Twits. She was a nasty piece of work, but what I love about her is that she was just as nasty a piece of work as her husband. They have a hate-hate relationship, but in terms of the tricks they play on each other, Mrs Twit gives as good as she gets.

Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief. She’s an independent, strong-willed and intelligent young girl in a harrowing and terrible situation. But she manages finds friends, love, connection and joy.

Phyllis Watson from The Kraken Wakes. She’s a smart woman who sees the dangers coming years in advance, and plans accordingly without even involving her husband. When shit finally hits the fan, it is her plan that sees them through in the end.

Eleanor Vance from The Haunting of Hill House. Although in many ways Eleanor is timid, easily manipulated and cares far too much what people think of her, she can, when the mood strike her, be hot headed, strong-willed and fiercely independent. In some ways I pity Eleanor, because I don’t at all see things how she does, but in the end she stood by her own (perhaps misguided) opinions and did what she wanted.

Melanie from The Girl with All the Gifts. From the start of the book, where she does not have all the information as to what situation she finds herself in, to the the end of the book, where she is the one who puts all the pieces together. Melanie is a thoughtful 10-year-old girl, who gives this book the kind of hopefully bleak ending I love.

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl. Don’t get me wrong—i don’t like Amy, but I have to admire her. She was smart, she was patient, and she was thorough. She got shit done, and as situations evolved, she rolled with the punches and altered her plans. I hate her, but damn it I respect her.

Jane Fleming from All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye. From repressed and tedious wife, mother and grandmother to arse kicking, gun toting, rescuer. This granny certainly kens the score.

Angelique de Xavia from A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away. She’s an innocent looking petite lady who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. And she can kick your arse from 20 feet away before you blink.

Jasmine Sharp from Where the Bodies Are Buried. Failed actress turned private investigator, she’s willing to work outside the law and dig up long-buried secrets to get the job done.

 

This last one contains SPOILERS for The Wasp Factory. You have been warned…

 

Frank Cauldhame from The Wasp Factory. More of an anti-hero, but the twist that Frank was born a female and pumped full of drugs and lied to for most of his life made so much of his character work for me. The hatred of women he was surrounded by and the macabre nature of his hobbies. It made me like him.

Wanderers of Time

wanderersTitle: Wanders of Time

Author: John Wyndham

Summary: John Wyndham wrote strong, imaginative fiction years before fame came his way, and this is a collection of some of his pieces from those days.

Already remarkable are his sense of movement, his sense of invention, his sense of style. The title story of this collection foreshadows frighteningly such later novels as The Kraken Wakes and The Midwich Cuckoos with its suggestion of a time when man is no longer the dominant creature on Earth.

And The Last Lunarians and Derelict of Space show how well he researched his material, long before space ships had struck out for the moon and the idea of inter-planetary travel had become commonplace.

This is truly another fascinating piece of evidence of John Wyndham’s remarkable talent as seer and storyteller.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I feel trite saying it, because i say it after every Wyndham book i read, but there is nothing this man writes that i don’t love. I’m sure i’m not capable of fully explaining why, either. There is just something in a combination of his writing style and the subject matter that are just perfect to me.

This is a collection of some of his early work, when he was writing as John Beynon and being published in American science fiction magazines. Pulp fiction it may have been, but it is still damn good. I enjoyed each of the five stories in the book, and would be hard pushed to pick a favourite.

Wanderers of Time, with its collection of time travellers and their broken machines, stranded in a desert land roamed only by robot creatures, had me hooked the moment we find out what’s inside of those robots. Derelict of Space was for me reminiscent of Firefly and illegal salvaging, because although none takes place in the story, i can see how modern fiction like Firefly could have been influenced by these kinds of stories. Child of Power seemed very much Wyndham’s personal prelude to Chocky, as well as having some foresight of The Midwich Cuckoos. As much as i did enjoy the story, i think Wyndham developed his ideas to much gain in the other novels. The Last Lunarians was a story i couldn’t stop reading. The very knowledge that something wasn’t right, that something bad was going to happen, and seeing that unfold, kept me turning the pages. The Puff-ball Menace is so obviously the same ideas Wyndham used for The Day of the Triffids, but i would say it also has a darker aspect to the plants, in some ways. I really thought the story was going to end on a depressing note (was looking forward to it, in fact), but instead we’re left on a both a hopeful and hopeless ending.

Wyndham creates these worlds so easily. He doesn’t necessarily provide a lot of information–he provides just enough. He doesn’t describe the entire world, he describes aspects pertinent to the story at hand, to the characters at hand, and leaves you to fill in (or not) the rest as you wish. I think because of this, because he stops short of giving too many details to these worlds, it makes it easier to imagine them being this world. The world we’re living in now in the not too distant future, in the far flung future, or even just tomorrow. And that gives a sense of connection and recognition to every story–even the ones set in space.

These stories and concepts just interest and intrigue me immensely. They’re fun, but they’re suspenseful. They’re obviously fictitious, but they’re easily relatable. They’re just bloody good.

This is the ninth book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.

This knocks three squares off my Bookish Bingo: Set in the future, set outside of Earth and about time travel.

TTT: Character Spin Offs

TTTWanting more from a book, a book that leaves the reader craving more, is a sign of a great book for me. And for me that will most often come in the form of characters. Characters make or break books as far as i’m concerned, and characters that I love or hate and want more of, will always make a book. These are some of the most intriguing characters i’d love to read more about in some capacity.

1. Zellaby and Lord Henry from The Midwich Cuckoos and The Picture of Dorian Gray, respectively.
This a towfer, but it’s also something i’ve wanted for a long time. A book entirely about Zellaby and Lord Henry sitting down over a pot of tea and talking philosophically. I want it so much, one day, I may just write it myself.

2. The women from The Godfather.
As much as I enjoyed this book, the sexism made me rage. All I wanted was a book from the female characters’ POVs, essentially showing that they were the ones really running the show. That they were so in control, they could pull the men’s strings without the men even realising it.

3. The ‘kraken’ (because they’re aren’t actually called that) from The Kraken Wakes.
I like stories where the villains have their own, valid, motivations. When it’s not as simple as good and evil, when there is grey area. And in books like that—like The Kraken Wakes—i find myself wanting to know more about the other side of the story.

4. Wednesday from American Gods.
I just found him immensely interesting. How in control, self-assured and mysterious he was. He was weaving this plot, knowing where all the pieces were and guiding them into the places he needed them to be. I would love to have experienced that from his point of view. Also, I just generally want more of him.

5. Clarisse McClellan from Fahrenheit 451.
This peculiar young girl who effortlessly helps turn Guy Montag’s life upside down. She’s in, what, two or three scenes early in the book and then she disappears. We never really find out much about her or what happens to her, but I would very much like to.

6. The deaf-mute in a top hat from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.
My favourite line in the entire story:
“An instant later, a silk hat materialised in the air beside me, considerably down and to the left, and my special, only technically unassigned cohort grinned up at me – for a moment, I rather thought he was going to slip his hand into mine.”
How could I not want, just, more of this man?

7. The Triffids from The Day of The Triffids.
Another, perhaps, misunderstood evil creature. Though they did plant themselves (a pun! Ha) on Earth and lay in wait for years before striking when the human race was at its weakest, so maybe not so misunderstood. Still, I love an interesting, complex, plant-based villain. I’d love to read their take over of Earth from their point of view.

8. Tim Vale from One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night and Be My Enemy.
Brookmyre is so bloody good at characters, even his secondary, supporting, fucking fleeting characters are so rich. I’d take more of any of them, really. But Mr Vale… a “security expert”… his back story is just dripping with potential, and I am more than eager to read about it. Also not impossible that he could, in theory, get his own book…

9. The house from The Haunting of Hill House.
I can include inanimate objects on this list, right? Though, ‘inanimate’ might not be a word that describes this house. The mystery surrounding it, the horrors it has contained. I want to experience that with the house, too, not only its inhabitants. Would it be less scary? More? Would it answer my questions, or raise further ones? I don’t mind what the answers to these questions are, but i’d be fascinated to find out.

10. IT from IT.
This villain I would just want to know more about. Its supernatural nature is evident, but no solid answers on what it is or where it is from are ever answered, only that it has been living in, feeding from and influencing the inhabitants of the town for hundreds of years. This is one of my favourite books, and it’s already pretty darn long, but I would welcome more.

TTT: Classics

TTT My second Top Ten Tuesday in a row. This is not what i had planned… but, but, but, classics! When i enter a bookshop, “cassic literature” is always the section i head to first. Unless i feel like enjoying the anticipation, in which case i’ll save it till last… Either way, the point is it’s my favourite section. I don’t know why. It’s not that more modern books aren’t good, or that i don’t enjoy them. I do, often. There are just SO MANY new books, i can’t keep up with what’s being released when by who and what else did they write? I just don’t seem to care enough. The classics–the classic classics, not the “modern” classics, never change. They will always be there, no matter if i take my sweet time getting around to reading them.

With my love of classics in mind, here is a random list (and really, it was really hard to make this random and not organise it in some way!) of 10 that i particularly love…

 

class01

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I haven’t read much Oscar Wilde. A few short stories and Dorian Gray. And i adored Dorian Gray. Actually, i adored Lord Henry, but whatever.

 

 

class02

 

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I bought this on a whim when i saw it in a charity shop and devoured it in a day. I loved the concepts and imagination. Pity i didn’t have the same feeling about War of the Worlds.

 

 

1637352

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I loved the original 1963 film, so when i found out it was based on a book, of course i had to read it. Both book and film are creepily atmospheric while leaving the ending open enough for the reader to come to her own conclusions.

 

 

class04

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
I wanted to say this will never be surpassed at the ultimate dystopian, particularly in terms of ‘this could really happen/this is already happening’… but to be fair, i read this over 10 years ago, and i don’t trust my memory enough. I remember enough to know i loved this book, though.

 

 

class05

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This book isn’t perfect, but any negatives are overshadowed by the amazingness of the entire rest of the book. It was so refreshing to read a lot of what was discussed in this book. I would make this compulsory reading for every human alive, if i could.

 

 

class06The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham
Absolutely any John Wyndham book could have been included in this list. There isn’t a word the man has written that i haven’t loved (not that i’ve actually read them all yet–i’m pacing myself!). Picking this one felt like a cheat, because it’s a book of short stories; it felt like i was adding more Wyndham than choosing a novel would have done.

 

 

class07The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This one i didn’t love instantly; I hated it the first time i tried to read it. But the second time was so completely different. I loved Salinger’s understated writing style. He doesn’t give everything away, and makes the reader work a little. And Holden Caulfield is so simplistically philosophical, it was hard not to like him.

 

 

class08
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was my first Christie and my first Poirot. I picked this one because i already knew and loved the who, how and why. Turns out i love smart and egotistic detectives, and Poirot has become a firm favourite.

 

 

clas09Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I had wanted to read and study this at school, but my class did An Inspector Calls, instead. I eventually read this of my own accord many years later and loved it. So many concepts being explored under the premise of a group of children fending for themselves on a deserted island. I found it fascinating!

 

 

PP&WPeter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
This was a classic i had been long overdue in reading by the time i got around to it. All my life i knew i was the namesake of Peter Pan’s friend, but never did i bother picking up the book that made my name popular. I’m glad i eventually did. And i think i got more out of this book about the essence of childhood as an adult than i ever would have in my youth.

The Kraken Wakes

wyndham02Title: The Kraken Wakes.

Author: John Wyndham.

Summary: The novel describes escalating phases of what appears to be an invasion of Earth by never-seen aliens, as told through the eyes of Mike Watson, who works for the English Broadcasting Company with his wife and co-reporter Phyllis. A major role is also played by Professor Alastair Bocker – more clear-minded and far-sighted about the developing crisis than everybody else, but with the habit of telling brutally unvarnished and unwanted truths.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I haven’t met a Wyndham book i didn’t love, and this one was no exception. His narrative style is wonderful for me, constantly interesting and engaging while being easy to read. And read, and read.

I loved Phyllis by the end of page one. Why more people can’t write interesting, strong and well-rounded female characters i have no idea, but Phyllis is perfection. She makes her voice—more often than not to say something important and insightful—heard, uses both her heart and her brain, but won’t let either be ruled by the other.

Mike, the narrator and Phyllis’s husband/partner-in-crime, i enjoyed mostly for his love, appreciation and representation of Phyllis. He knows her strengths and weakness, and adapts to both as needed. He’s also the perfect middle-ground man to tell this story, almost always keeping a level head and not jumping to any conclusions regarding the creatures in the Deeps.

Regarding the creatures. They’re not called Kraken, that’s just a nifty line Wyndham pilfered, quite effectively, from a Tennyson poem. We also never actually see them. We get a glimpse of something, but it’s covered in some kind of armour and one is never captured or examined. Really, this book isn’t about the ‘kraken’; it’s about the humans. About human curiosity and inquisitiveness, as well as human denial and inertia, not forgetting human rashness and self-preservation.

This book explores, over many years, the human reaction and development when faced with a previously unknown and increasingly hostile intelligent life form. It’s not sensationalised; it’s plausible. It’s thoughtful and thorough. What we see in a realistic—and, 60 years later, still relevant—representation of the press, public and government during the time of a slowly developing crisis.

Wyndham perfectly blends a fantastical science-fiction aspect with an accurate portrayal of humanity. Half of the plot is a highly imaginative and implausible future, the other half is uncomfortably close to reality.

I have read several of Wyndham’s books, but the alien apocalyptic adventures told in The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes is definitely Wyndham at his best.

As an aside, i was not far from finishing this book yesterday when i went to the cinema to see Pacific Rim. And all i could see was a stolen and hashed up version of The Kraken Wakes.
Please note: This is not an endorsement for Pacific Rim. If you’re after crazy creatures from the depths of the sea trying to take over Earth, i recommend The Kraken Wakes!