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.

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TTT: Difficult Reads

TTTThis was pretty hard, actually. I wanted to choose books that were good books, but hard to read because of the subject matter. Apparently… I haven’t read many of them. I wonder if that’s a reflection on me as a reader, or the books i choose to read.

But 10 books i found, and here they are.

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I really enjoyed the writing of this book. It was funny and descriptive, and utterly quoteable. But. The story was almost non-existent. As well-written as the words were, there was nothing pushing them along. I put this book down and didn’t read anything for weeks. That’s how bad it was. In the end I had to give up.

Canal Dreams by Iain Banks
This book just wasn’t that thrilling, really. Especially as the description on the back promised me a kick arse female cello player murder a load of evil men. It was interesting, reading chunks an the history of the Panama canal, but the different parts of the book felt very disconnected. Then there was the rape scene. That’s never going be not difficult to read.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This book was just tense from the get go. It was brilliant, but not a good book to read before bed.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Just… bad. Lovecraft is not good. I was rolling my eyes and cringing and just frustrated during this book. (This book I didn’t actually finish.) He can’t describe anything and his plots make little sense.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
This book really dragged. Things were often repeated to various degrees of detail. Lots of action and time would pass over a few pages, but then nothing would really happen and very little time would pass over entire chapters. It was inconsistent and failed to hold my attention or interest.

Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
I really enjoyed this book, but it was the kind of book that takes a lot of concentration to read. I couldn’t just fall into it and let it pull me along, it made me work for it, made me pay attention. I could only manage one chapter before needing to take a break, and was often left feeling tired. A wonderful, wonderful book, though.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
This is two stories in one book, and it is the second story that I had difficulty reading. It is pages and pages describing Seymour. Fifteen of those pages are spent describing Seymour’s face. If Chrome Yellow left me tired, this book left me fast asleep.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
This was hard to read in an eye-roll cringey way. This author (who is basing this story on her own experiences) is waving her arms and crying out desperately for attention. The book and narrative voice are inconsistent. She claims she did not have any mental health problems, but seems to enjoy the allure she believes being labelled with such gives her. Every word just screamed, “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!”

The Inheritors by William Golding
Another booked I loved, that makes the reader work for it. It is told from the point of view of Neanderthals, whose language and connection with the world and each other is vastly different and simple than our own. They used few words, and grasping the larger concepts they were trying to convey with them took some work, but was more than worth it. I saw this picture.

The Knitting Circle’s Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan
Another cringe-inducing book. Considering the subject matter, this book was verging on slapstick, and it embarrassed itself and the reader.

What Dreams May Come

wdmcTitle: What Dreams May Come

Author: Richard Matheson

Summary: A love that transcends Heaven and Hell.

What happens to us after we die? Chris Nielsen had no idea, until an unexpected accident cut his life short, separating him from his beloved wife, Annie. Now Chris must discover the true nature of life after death.

But even Heaven is not complete without Annie, and when tragedy threatens to divide them forever, Chris risks his very soul to save Annie from an eternity of despair.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: What Dreams May Come is one of my favourite (guilty pleasure) films. I love it like i love the song ‘Origin of Love’ by Hedwig and the Angry Inch; that true love exists and will triumph over all—in spite of the fact i don’t believe a word of it.

I have loved the film for many, many years and the book has been on my to-read list for the last few years. I expected to love it more than the film–because the book is always better, right?

My first misgiving was the introduction by Matheson, proclaiming the only fictional part of the book were the characters. He points to his five page glossary of “research” as proof (because if it’s written in a book, it must be true?). I hope this is part of a ploy to draw the reader into the story, rather than Matheson seriously believing in the things he’s written about, but i have no way of knowing.

The book was easy enough to read. At no point was i bored, and often found myself wanting to pick it back up and continue reading. But, it was written very simply. There was a lot of tell rather than show, which may have been a part of the narrative device (the narrator is dead and transcribing the book to his brother via a psychic), but it was not as engaging as it could have been because of this. I was not drawn in to the book; the writing style and narrator’s voice kept me at a distance. I was very much the reader of a book, not immersed in the world of the book.

Some things were better than the film. The film uses a bigger tragedy within the family as a plot device surrounding Ann’s breakdown, while the book is much more subtle on this. And it works, to understand enough of Ann’s character without having to go in to the details or orchestrate more depressing plot points. So, the story overall in the book is simpler, and works better.

For my taste, there was too much information about the afterlife. Too much specific information. It was like a fantasy world you would read about in a science fiction book, rather than something as simple as a heaven-like paradise. It was at times described as a place where anything you imagine can be real, that the mind and thought is everything, but then there were also rules and laws and specific ways of doing things. It was as though Matheson thought “heaven” would be more realistic and believable if he crammed it full of fictional science. Really, it started to get dull with the details of it all.

By far the worst thing, unfortunately, was mixed up with my favourite scene. The scene it when Chris reaches Ann in her own personal hell and tries to convince her she doesn’t have to remain there. When he finally stops actively trying to persuade her and just lets himself talk to her—it’s the moment. The moment it all comes together and love conquers the impossible. So, it was hugely disappointing to me to find this meaningful speech rife with blatant sexism. I mean, thanking your wife for cooking and cleaning and baking and washing? How about the fact you should have done some yourself, you lazy fuck?

The review sounds very negative, i am aware, but despite it all, i’m in love with the story. I’m fascinated by the narrative, but disappointed in the writing. I think i would watch the film again over reading the book, but i would rate them at an even level—they could both do better.

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

I Am Legend

9780575094161Title: I Am Legend.

Author: Richard Matheson.

Summary: Robert Neville is the last living man on earth… but he is not alone. Every other man, woman, and child has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville’s blood. By day, he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn. How long can one man survive like this?

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: Post-apocalyptic dystopian horror! How could i not like this book? (It could’ve been crap, is how, but thankfully it wasn’t.)

The book does not ease you into the main character, Robert’s, situation slowly or gently. The first few chapters are tense. Tense. They are not scary in a typical way; there are no quick shocks, suspense or gore. It’s more a constant sense of: How does he live like that? How can he survive that way? For the first third of the book just the fact of his survival amazed me; in his situation i’m sure i would have given up.

The tension eased a little through the middle of the book. And really, i found Robert’s logical thought process and application to the vampires interesting and refreshing. He refused to take the legends at face value. He assumed there had to be logical reasons for sunlight, garlic, crosses and stakes. As my favourite quote from the book puts it:

The cross. He held one in his hand, gold and shiny in the morning sun. This, too, drove the vampires away.
Why? Was there a logical answer, something he could accept without slipping on banana skins of mysticism?

Seeing him research, experiment and coming to rational scientific conclusions was really enjoyable for me. I love horror, but mix it with science fiction and make it sound like a realistically plausible thing and apparently i love it even more. This books makes vampires not a scary mythical beast, but a disease that, in theory, could exist… which in my opinion makes the idea of vampires even scarier.

The end of the book took a route i had not excepted. When Robert, after years of thinking himself alone in the world, comes across another seemingly uninfected human, things don’t go quite how he had envisioned. I was suspicious from the moment he met Ruth, but did not expect what actually happened at all. Matheson creates a darkly twisted, but ultimately hopeful ending… it’s just not the kind of hopeful you expect.

I think Matheson weaved an excellent tale of horror, science fiction, psychological terror and the brutality of the human race. I will definitely look for more books by him in the future.