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: Film and TV

TTTThis was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. I love books, and I love films and TV shows, so imagining some of my favourite books in that media should be loads of fun. Right? Except it wasn’t so much. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, it’s just that, actually, there are a lot of books i’ve read that I don’t think would translate well to the screen. That a lot of the things I loved about the books would be lost. Some subtly, or a character’s inner conflict, or the underlying meaning of the entire book. So, it ended up being quite difficult to choose 10 books, to be honest.

This entire list also comes with a proviso: I would want to see these books made into films or TV shows that I would have creative control over. I would want them on the screen like they are in my head. I would get to decide what parts got left out and any details that would be changed. So often film adaptations let me down, but if this is my top ten—it’s my top ten.

American Gods – This is already getting a pilot for a TV series, but as far as i’m aware there is no cast, no date, and no guarantee of a full series. But yes, i’d have a lot of fun making this into a TV show. Actually seeing Wednesday and his merry band of ancient gods.

The Night Circus – The rights have been bought to adapt this into a film, but it doesn’t appear to be moving anywhere. I would be more than happy to be brought on as director. The visuals in this book are extraordinary, and I can imagine them working for the screen incredibly well.

The Girl with all the Gifts – This kind of plot is exactly what the horror/zombie film genre needs. Also that ending. Yes. It’s not even this specific book that i’d (necessarily) love to see on the big screen, but a film that takes the well-worn genre and adds some twists, approaches it from a new angle and generally does something different.

Apathy and Other Small Victories – Although this adaptation would need a voice over, I wouldn’t mind, because it would be hilarious. I’d even allow the narrator to break the fourth wall and address the audience directly. It would be cliché, but clichéd perfection.

The Vesuvius Club – Considering Mark Gatiss has written for both film and TV, it’s not a big surprise to find his book on this list. It’s just… perfectly set up to be a film (film series, even, with the two sequels). Imagine an Edwardian debonair James Bond-esque character with questionable morals and an even more questionable sexuality. Add hijinks, a sex club and an potential apocalypse.

All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye – I picked this book because it’s my favourite, but really, any Brookmyre book. He has about 18 of them, you could close your eyes and blindly grasp at them and you’d snag a good one. The characters, the action, the plot… it’s all so larger than life, it’s so easy to image watching it on screen.

Tiny Deaths – I’d love to see these short stories adapted into a series of TV programmes. They all focus on death as the subject, but are so wide-ranging and interesting. It’s also something I can see going beyond the book, with more writers and more stories.

It – Okay, this has already been adapted into a film. Both the book and the film were a huge part of my childhood. And guess what? I’ve always preferred the book. There is something in the book that the film just fails to capture (as most book-to-film adaptations do). From my youth i’ve always wanted to write a screenplay for a new adaptation, ergo, it makes my list.

Plugged – This book in another that I can so easily see working well as a film. It’s not got a huge amount of depth to it, it’s a more typical action-driven story with some real characters and some interesting details and settings along the way. A classic action comedy.

Apartment 16 – Really now, I love the horror. This book has some great and varied aspects that could work so well on screen. Such creepy, subtle shiver down the spine moments, as well as some more straightforward gruesome creatures. And an apartment building setting; corridor after corridor, door after door, a slow creaking lift… it’s just perfect.

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.

The Stand

the-standTitle: The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition

Author: Stephen King

Summary: First came the days of the plague… Then came the dreams…

Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death. his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil. His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: I’ve owned this book for many years, but at 1421 pages, i always found it far too intimidating to start reading it. For the last two years one of my aims has been to read fewer, but longer books. So, i finally convinced myself to pick up this beast and get on with it. I feel very accomplished right now.

The book spans just pre-apocalypse, apocalypse and post-apocalypse, which suited my apocalypse-loving reading habits to a tee. I did especially love the first half of the book, with the plague slowly spreading, and the population slowly and then more quickly dying off. I loved the army trying to cover it up and the media being forced to play it down. It happened very much the way i could see it happening for real. Also, i went through both a sinus infection and a chest/throat infection while reading this book. Coughing, having a headache and feeling fatigued while reading about a flu-like pandemic killing off 99% of the population is a little unnerving, but totally added to my reading experience!

We follow several characters’ narratives, and at first it was difficult to keep track of people and plots and, even more, it was difficult to get into the stories. Just as things were getting interesting in one narrative, it would stop and you get thrown into another. After a few chapters of each, and once i had my head around who was who, the switching actually became more exciting, as i would remember where that character had been and was keen to get back and see how things would go. I had my favourites, of course, but my most favourite characters were secondary characters. Those the main characters met on their journeys. Tom and Glen would 100% be my favourites, and i loved them the moment Nick and Stu (respectively) met them.

There were two other stand out characters for me, because of how my feelings for them changed through the course of the narrative:

Frannie is the only main female character. She is the only female who we meet pre-apocalypse and whose journey we follow throughout the book. At first, i loved her. She was independent and free thinking. She didn’t follow the typical or easy line that was expected of her, and i admired her for that. But. As she and her companions made their way across the United States and finally settled with other survivors of the plague… she became weaker, meeker, more stereotypically feminine. She cried a lot and was generally extremely emotional and unable to control her emotions, even making decisions on them in committee meetings. She was portrayed as a typically stubborn and selfish woman/wife, who put herself and her family first and insisted her man/husband to the same. By the end she bored me and i massively disliked her, which i disliked.

Larry is another character who took my feelings for and opinions on him for a trip. At first, i disliked him immensely. He was selfish, egotistical and reckless. He was useless; no good for anyone–even his mother said so. Even though his dreams and his journey were taking him east, i thought it was a pretty safe assumption that someone would turn; a character we were made to feel on side for would, for want of a better term, “go evil.” I thought Larry was a prime candidate for this because, although he wasn’t bad, he wasn’t good, either. He struggles with the idea–the knowledge–that he is a selfish person, but i thought he would eventually simply embrace it and head on over to the dark man. Instead, Larry travels not only the United States, but also a wonderful character arc. He becomes the leader of a group of survivors and successfully leads them east, he takes on more responsibility when they reach the new community, and he–well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending. Suffice to say he fights adamantly against his selfish nature and wins, though continually struggles and wonders if he’s winning at all. In many ways i think he was the best of them all.

The second half of the book i had a lot more issues with, generally. There was a point when the whole feel of the narrative seemed to shift. It was as though time had shuffled forward a year or two, instead of only a week or two. All of a sudden the survivors had set up a base and were in touch with large groups who were making their way there. Larry’s group had suddenly gone from four to fourty. Nadine was suddenly in a grey area, being lured by the dark side and i kind of hated her. The shift was sudden and jarring and took a while for me to settle to. I think the missing transition was never made up for, and the second half just didn’t have the build up that the first half had.

By the last leg, i think the editor on this book had given up or fallen asleep. You can say i’m nitpicking, but i wasn’t looking for inconsistencies, they were simply very obvious to anyone who cared enough to pay attention. So, four people are instructed to walk over 700 miles with only the clothes on their backs and to not carry anything. This is adhered to in so much as they scavenge for food and water everyday. But. What about the sleeping bags they curl up in every night? Or the coffee they drink every morning that eventually runs out? They’re making this trek for several chapters, so these things bothered me for a good while.

The biggest disappointment, i think, was the defeat of the dark man and his people. Because, really now, the good guys did nothing. Nothing. I mean, they did stuff. They sent spies, they walked to Las Vegas, they laughed in his face and made some noise. But they did nothing to aid in his destruction. Ultimately, the good guys could have stayed home with their feet up drinking tea and having naps, and the dark man and his people would have killed themselves. I won’t go into mega spoilery details, but if you’ve read the book, stop and think it over. What exactly do the good guys bring to the fight? Nothing. So, really, it all felt kind of pointless to me…

The second biggest disappointment was the superfluous last 60-odd pages. I am not a fan of drawn out here’s-how-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after endings. And okay, this wasn’t exactly the “happy ever after” stuff, but it dragged on after the anti-climatic climax and urgh. I love books that end with a bang, or an ambiguous ellipsis. I hate books that end and then carry on a bit more and slowly, so slooowly just fade to black. My interest fades to black, too.

The one redeeming feature of the ending was the message to take away. Which, summarised, is “Society sucks and humanity will always kill itself.” In a slightly less crass way, as the book itself says:

Postpone organisation as long as possible. It was organisation that always seemed to cause the problem. When the cells began to clump and grow dark. You didn’t have to give the cops guns until the cops couldn’t remember the names… the faces…

And that idea, that theme, is slowly hinted at, revealed and explored throughout the book. And is 110% why Glen Bateman, the sociology professor, was the best character in the entire book; he saw it coming right from the start, but still fought hard as all fuck for humanity.

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

This knocks three squares off my Bookish Bingo: Made into a TV (mini)series, over 500 pages and features supernatural powers.

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.