Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Rating: WARTY!

After reading about a third of this I came to the conclusion that while librarians may be experts on the concept and management of books, this doesn't necessarily translate to the content of a book. For a novel written by a librarian, this book was lacking far too much. It made no sense, was poorly written, and was larded with cliché.

The story is your usual teen trope: a new girl in a new town having acceptance problems. The author throws in the supernatural, but instead of this making the story better, it made it far worse. It didn't help that said teen, Hanna, wasn't remotely likeable. She was living with her aunt, but decided to hit her aunt over the head with a bottle, and leave, thinking her aunt was more than likely dead, to move to small town Texas, where her mother lives. This was a good move since both of these women were quite evidently sociopaths at best, and belonged together.

Hanna hears her dead father talking to her until she starts back on her meds, having negotiated with her mom a two week stay of eviction to prove she can make friends in her new school. Thus far there had been nothing remotely plausible in this story, but that was about to improve. Soon there would be nothing conceivably plausible.

Despite the school being possessed by some parasite that resides in the windows and can turn a living being into glass while sucking the life force and all organic tissue from them, not one single person: not her mother, not her teachers, nor her classmates, tell her a single thing about what's going on, nor do they offer a single warning to her, or a single piece of advice on how to protect herself. I'm sorry but no. The author has made the typical YA writer's blinkered assumption that every single person is exactly the same, has the same feelings and motives and will treat a newcomer to the school in exactly the same cruel manner. I've come to expect this from your average female YA writer; I made the mistake of expecting more from a librarian.

Worse than this, this supernatural crap has been going on at this school for months, yet not a single alarm has been raised about kids dying or going missing. No one from out of town has any idea there's something seriously wrong with this town?

There's also something seriously wrong with the majority of YA authors. A few of them are brilliant, but far too many of them seem to be incapable of creativity or imagination and end up taking the road of least effort, cloning everything everyone else has already written, and applying the same brain-dead ham-fisted techniques of authorship to it. YA is the most blundering, dead-end, mindless, derivative, festering swamp of unoriginality and cluelessness, rivalled only by chick-lit café and/or bakery 'sleuthing' genre (I flatly refuse to read any novel that carries the word 'sleuth' on the cover), and by the chick-lit 'poor spineless rejected girl flees back to her home town and meets Mr Ri-ight like that's going to happen, and he'll save her because he's a manly man and she's just a poor weak woman' garbage genre.

This particular example of all that's wrong with YA has the 'girl hating the guy that you know for a fact she's going to be swooning over in short order' trope. It has the 'no one tells her shit' trope; it has the 'throw the girl together with the guy she supposedly hates' trope. Frankly, it would be easier to list the tropes it doesn't have so I'll stop there. The thing which finally made me throw this book out before it made me throw my breakfast out of my stomach was when the girl and the guy were thrown together after she encountered the evil thing in the glass.

So this guy invites himself to her home afterwards, and she tells him he can't come in, but he pushes his way in anyway and she has no problem with that. At least now they both have the chance to sit down and finally discuss everything that's been going on, right? Nope. Not a word. He explains nothing and she's far too brain-dead to ask any intelligent questions. This novel SUCKED, period.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories by Ambrose Bierce

Rating: WARTY!

This was a very slim and very uninteresting volume. I am sure it would have been quite the ticket in the later eighteen hundreds, when Bierce was at his most prolific (not that these particular stories were published in Bierce's lifetime, but by today's standards, they leave a lot to be desired and I cannot recommend them.

I didn't read them all because they were not interesting to me, but the ones I did read all seemed to be the same story re-dressed with a few changed details and trotted out as something new. One trick pony describes it well, I think.

There were too many of them which were rooted in darkness and icy chills blowing hither and thither, and on purportedly scary footsteps, strange marital discord, vague descriptions of bad things happening, and one line conclusions. It really became too tedious to read them after the first three or so.

I found myself skimming a couple more and gave up on it as a bad job about half way through. Maybe other readers will have a different experience, but this was definitely not for me, despite my liking An Occurrence at Owl Creek, which was why I picked this up in the first place. Ambrose Bierce disappeared in Mexico in 1914 whilst covering the revolution there, and was never seen or heard from again. I think his own story told as fiction would be a lot more interesting than this collection was!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman

Rating: WARTY!

This was a quick fail for me. I listened to the first part of the audiobook which was read averagely by Todd Haberkorn, and the last part, and neither was remotely appealing, so this one was a speedy return to the library. I really don't know how you can make a novel about necromancy boring, but this was dead boring and I make no excuse for the pun!

It also contains some bad language right up front, and while I have no problem with that normally in a novel, it really stood out here starkly and appeared to be employed for no good purpose, so it just felt like one more bad choice on the part of the author.

The plot sounded interesting, but the execution of it was the death of it. Andrew Blankenship is the necromancer who has "a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago" so we're told, now also has a monster (so-called) from Russian folklore is coming for him. The "monster" is Baba Yaga, and I'm sorry but I simply can not Baby Yack-up seriously. The whole idea of this wicked witch of the forest who lives in a house that sits on chicken legs is so pathetic that it inspires belly-aching laighter and not one iota of terror in me whatsoever, so this was a huge fail. Admittedly I listened to only about third of this, but it felt more like a turd, and that was more than enough to make me dis-recommend it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, Benjamin Harper, and Dennis Calero

Rating: WARTY!

This is the third of three graphic novels I got from the library recently, all three of which I was disappointed with. This one is not about super heroes, but is based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story published over a hundred seventy years ago wherein a man who, shall I say, doesn't have all his ravens in a row, takes exception to the disfigured eye of his friend, and ends up killing the guy and secreting the body under the floor of his dwelling. The novel is part of a graphic series, but I don't think i will read any more of these.

When a neighbor reports hearing a scream from the house and the police arrive to investigate, the psycho guy (who goes unnamed), invites them in, confident they will find nothing incriminating, only to incriminate himself when he believes he can hear the still-beating heart of his victim and ends up tearing up the floor with the police present to witness it.

I haven't read Poe's original, so I can't make a comparison. All I can say is that this was dissatisfying and the story was changed slightly - the body in the original was dismembered, but it is not, here. What bothered me though, was the lack of inventiveness of the illustration. It seemed to consist almost solely of close-ups of the faces of the characters, with very few more removed images, and while this artwork was not bad, it wasn't that great, either.

Admittedly some guy rambling on about how his friend's eye drives him nuts isn't really something you can make a lot of, so perhaps choosing to turn this particular short-story into a graphic novel was a bad decision. As I can testify, while it's a lot easier to tinker with someone else's story and (in my case) make a parody of it, than it is to come up with an original story, it's not impossible either. All-in-all, I was unhappy with this one, and I cannot recommend it as a worthy read.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rats by Paul Zindel

Rating: WARTY!

The blurb made this novel sound like it was a young adult story but it really isn't. There's a level of gore in it which is obnoxious. I got the impression that the author was disturbingly in love with describing the demise of people rodently chewed, mouse-masticated, in a word: eaten by rats. And he wasn't anywhere near as entertaining as Eric Idle. After only one disk in this audio book on CD, I couldn't stand to listen to any more, and I refuse to recommend something this obsessive. The author knows quite literally nothing about rats and worse, he ascribes to them superhuman powers. His descriptions are not even consistent.

The plot begins around a landfill which is being paved-over to make way for development. Something - which may well be explained later in the novel, but which wasn't at the point I quit, makes the rats grow, swarm, and essentially turn into zombies. They immediately start attacking the residents of the nearby residential neighborhood. This story read like bad fanfic and it was laughable - and not in a good way.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Rating: WORTHY!

These three twelve-year-old kids, Alice, Poppy, and Zach, have a healthy imagination and play together in an elaborate fantasy world they've created, featuring pirates and mermaids, and evil queens, based on their respective toys - action figures, Barbie dolls, and this one bone china doll in Poppy's mom's cabinet. The way Holly Black evokes these kids and their passion for this fantasy world is remarkable. The way it's read by Nick Podehl contributed greatly to the atmosphere and representation of the kids, too. I can only speculate uselessly how I would have found this novel had I read it first rather than listened to it. I would still have liked it, but would I have liked it as much? More? It's impossible to say, just as it's impossible to say if I would have disliked it had the narrator been rather nauseating. You pays your money and you takes your chance! Except that in this case it's "You borrows your audiobook ...."

Zach's dad thinks Zach is too old and too male to be playing with dolls, so he throws out all of Zach's figures one day while Zach is at school. The boy already resented his father for disappearing for some time before slowly sliding his way back into the family, but now Zach honestly hates him. For reasons which I didn't feel were well explained, Zach is too embarrassed to admit to the girls that his toys were thrown away, so he brusquely states that he's done playing these childish games. This begins a thread of discord which runs uncomfortably through this story like a out-of-the-way itch

The girls are crushed, but he's adamant about his decision, until late one night Alice and Poppy show up outside his bedroom window with a story that Poppy has been having night-time visitations from the ghost of the bone china doll, which she says is made from real bones of a dead girl who wants to be buried or she will curse them. Poppy has some actual ashes and bone fragments she says were inside the doll. They look like they came from someone's cremated remains.

Zach isn't sure that she's being honest, and he only half-way believes the ghost story, but he's impressed by Poppy's earnest demeanor, and by Alice's bravery at risking being grounded for life by her strict grandmother. Alice said she would only go with Poppy if Zach came, and Poppy was determined to go alone if she had to. Zach may have been skeptical, but impressed by the strength of conviction in his friends, and interested in one more adventure with the girls, the three of them hop on a bus to East Liverpool in the wee hours. it's a three hour ride to whence this dead girl supposedly hailed. Their plan is to bury her and lift the curse.

Thus begins their quest! The story is told well and has a lot of action and adventure, and some interesting conversations and shifting allegiances. There are some less than noble behaviors indulged in by these three kids, and I would have liked to have seen some sort of remorse or cost to the kids resulting from these, but there was none. I didn't like that. That aside, though, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I recommend it not only for age-appropriate readers (/listeners!), but for anyone who likes a good adventure story.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Camp Midnight by Steven T Seagle

Rating: WORTHY!

Having enjoyed Seagle's American Virgin series which I reviewed in August 2015, I was interested to see what he'd do with a children's story, and I wasn't disappointed.

Illustrated very nicely and appropriately by Jason Katzenstein, in really eye-catching bright and shifting colors, this children's novel tells a really good story about a feisty girl, Skye, who accidentally gets sent to a summer camp for monsters instead of one for children. I fell in love with Skye from the off. She's self-possessed, willful, motivated, thoughtful, and doesn't take crap from anyone. Why is it that so few female YA authors are able to create main characters like this?!

Maybe I had Halloween on the brain, but I swear I didn't plan on having three scare stories in my lap at the same time: not only an audiobook version of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes about two kids, but also two advance review copies of stories where a kid is bundled off for the summer away from a primary parent who is going to be wa-ay out of town, and the kid ends up surrounded by monsters! It will make for an interesting comparison of the latter two, though one is a graphic novel. and the other a chapter book.

In this graphic novel, Skye's mom is off to Rwanda for the summer, and isn't about to take Skye along (I'm guessing she doesn't want Skye coming down with Ebola or being recruited into a children's army, but heaven help any Ebola virus or psycho military commander who tries to mess with Skye!). The young daughter is sent to stay with her dad and step mom - a non-mom she despises. Evidently the feeling is mutual, since stepmom has convinced real dad to bundle Skye off to summer camp. Naturally Skye not only feels like crap about this, but is acting out over it, and doing a professional job.

Intentionally or not, Skye ends up on the bus to Camp Midnight, and if the bus trip isn't creepy enough, the camp itself is creepier. The only friend Skye makes is Mia, a spirited but wilting violet of a girl she meets on the back seat of the bus. Their relationship is amusingly thorny to begin with, but broadens and deepens as the story progresses. Skye is surprised to discover that life in the camp seems to start at midnight instead of daybreak, and she eventually discovers that all the other kids (even the hottie boy she encounters) are monsters of one hue or another, and the camp counsellor is a witch.

Skye is in a bit of a panic as to what to declare herself as, when her friend Mia declares she will reveal what she is at a time and place of her choosing, and not before. Skye likes this idea, and adopts this same posture herself. Contrary to expectations that this might make her into the very a pariah she's starting o feel she already is, it lends her a mystique, and people grow interested in her, including the hottie boy, who has a hair-raising story of his own.

But what exactly, is Mia, and why do some of the other campers seem to despise her? And what will Skye do when Mia comes out and everyone finds out? The joy of this story was in finding out exactly how Skye navigates her way through this morass of monstrous, this quagmire of queer (in the olde fashion'd sense). needless to say - but I;;l say it - she does a fine job and ends up deciding she wants to return to this camp next year - and the start of a series, presumably. But not everything pans out the way you might think it might. I recommend this as a truly worthy read.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Rating: WARTY!

I can't tell you what this is about, not really, because I gave up on the audio book after two disks. Nothing really interesting had happened at that point. It started out great, with the mysterious man purveying lightning rods, who arrives just ahead of a thunderstorm and a carnival, and gives James Nightshade and William Halloway a rod to attached to one of their homes. That sounded great, but then I got the impression that Ray Bradbury is a guy who loved to hear himself talk. I never got that impression from his short stories, but let him run to a lengthier piece, and I guess he does love the sound of his voice! Anyway I couldn't stand to listen to any more and I can't recommend this based on what I heard.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Slade House by David Mitchell

Rating: WORTHY!

I’ve not been having much luck with advance review copies of late so it was a joy to get this one. At first it felt like reading a book of short stories, but as soon as I began on the second one, I realized this related back to the first in interesting ways. I confess I had skimmed the first, not finding it very engrossing, but I went right back re-read it properly, and then proceeded without a problem. The first part still struck me as less than thrilling, but it did help to read it properly.

The stories are set exactly nine years apart (no matter what your watch or our calendar might be telling you…) and there’s a disturbing reason for this. The snapshots all center around Slade House, which was destroyed during a World War Two bombing attack on London, but still manages, somehow, to appear every nine years. The only entrance is through a tiny door set in a wall in the claustrophobic confines of Slade Alley. That’s how you get in. You don’t get out.

Norah and Jonah Grayer are twins who discovered that they had a psychic link. When one of their acquaintances discovered this, he took them under his wing and traveled with them around the world, overseeing their training, and the perfection of their skills until they no longer had use for him. The only other problem they had was their mortality, and they discovered they could offset this by sucking the souls from certain people who had a compatible soul type. They need to do this every nine years….

The story was generally well written, and although it bogged down in a little too much detail in some parts, and the beginning was a bit off-putting, it had genuinely creepy and scary parts to offset this. It was also technically well-written with few errors that I noticed. One of them was the use of a quote instead of an apostrophe in two phrases/words: 'that’s what religion does, doesn” t it' and 'can”t'? Also this is another author who doesn't know that we stanch a blood flow, not staunch it, although by dint of usage, the wrong word is being slowly shanghaied into use.

Aside from that my biggest issue was that each story, thought told by different people, is in first person PoV, which I hate. it’s a very weak and limiting voice and it generally makes for a poor if not downright irritating story. In this case it wasn’t told too badly, but it made no sense, because if these people were dead then they couldn’t very well be relating their stories in first person, right up to their moment of death, could they? So were they really dead? In this instance, it made for an interesting question and an interesting use of voice.

I understand that in many ways, this is a companion to David Mitchell’s Bone Clocks which I haven’t read, but which some reviewers have indicated offers a nod and a wink to the earlier story, in much the same way, I imagine, my own novels do. As I said, I haven’t read the earlier work, so I can’t comment on what kind of links or connections may or may not exist between the two.

Overall I recommend this as a very worthy read.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Rating: WORTHY!

Hill House had stood for eighty years and might have stood for eighty more, and whatever walked there, walked alone, we're told in this 1959 classic, as four people arrive to investigate this deserted and isolated house's reputation. It's haunted, even if only by a tragic history of a strict old man, three wives, and two daughters, one of whom committed suicide by hanging herself inside the gothic tower which the house boasts.

John Montague is the one who has rented the house for three summer months. He has invited two women who have had psychic experiences, Theodora - just Theodora - who is an artistic woman who had a fight with her roommate and took off without making up, and Eleanor Vance, a highly-strung woman who has recently been freed from the oppressive demands of her mother by the latter's death. The fourth in their party is Luke Sanderson, who stands to inherit the creepy house. Designed by original owner Hugh Crain, this residence has no regular angles: everything is very slightly off, and no door remains open, although the grounds are beautiful.

Shortly before the end of the story, and for reasons unknown, these four are joined by Montague's obnoxious high-maintenance wife and her companion Arthur, who is evidently a heavy-handed school principal. While I've seen people comment on Theodora's possible lesbian persuasion, I've never seen anyone else comment on the possible relationship between Mrs Montague and Arthur Parker until I read a review today. What's good for the loose is good for the propaganda!

Mrs Montague has no first name that we learn and Arthur no last (aside from one very brief mention). She's always Mrs Montague and he is always Arthur, and so they make a perfect couple. Neither of them experiences anything in the house except for a brief spell of automatic writing which she generates when hidden away in the library alone with Arthur playing with his planchette. This writing also mentions Eleanor, now calling her Nell, and a need for her to come home - but which is her home now?

Nothing happens on that first night with just the four of them, and Eleanor wakes up refreshed after the best night's sleep she's ever had, but slowly, over the next few days, they begin hearing noises in the house at night - things, maybe animals, moving along the hallways, banging on the doors, low murmurings, hysterical laughter, and children's voices. The odd thing is that it is always the two girls who hear noises, or the two guys who chase an unknown animal through the house and out of the front door. The guys didn't hear the noises, the girls didn't hear the animal. It's only later, as they bond as a team, that they start to share experiences.

Mrs Dudley is the housekeeper, a minor character who is almost robotic in her behavior and habits, and who provides some unintended comic relief. She refuses to stay there at night, and only visits during daylight to clean and prepare meals for the guests. Her husband is an obnoxious lecher, but appears only at the beginning of the story, as Eleanor arrives.

Eleanor slowly becomes unhinged (or more unhinged) as the nights pass. There appears chalked writing on the walls mentioning her by name one night and shortly after, writing in red paint or blood also referring to her and talking of home. Eleanor thinks that journeys end when lovers meet, and starts to see the house as her lover, as her journey's end, as home.

Despite all of the noise and disturbance, no one is injured, only scared. The worst scare Eleanor has is in the dark one night when she's sharing a room with Theo, and the lights go out and they hold hands in the darkness, but when the light comes back on, Theo is too far away and was sleeping, so Eleanor doesn't know whose bony hand she had held. In the night, In the dark./p>

After the other residents discover Eleanor climbing the dangerously decrepit iron helical staircase in the tower library, they decide she's becoming overwhelmed by the house, and bid her goodbye, but when she drives down the twisting lane to exit the house, she loses control of the car and has an accident. The novel curiously doesn't expressly say she died. Wikipedia has her crashing into an oak tree but the novel doesn't actually specify what tree it is, only that it's a large one.

I recommend this novel despite the fact that it's a bit too drawn-out and tedious in places, most notably at the beginning, because it is really well written (and very avant-garde, fifties-style in places) and masterfully done with regard to the creepy events. This is not your cheesy B picture horror story. It also leaves questions unanswered. Was there really a haunting? Wikipedia and others argue that maybe the events were caused by Eleanor, but this "explanation" fails to account for the fact that Hill House had a haunted reputation before Eleanor ever came onto the scene. I recommend this novel and both movies, the earlier one being much more faithful to the novel than the more recent one.

Look for an upcoming companion review to this one - a review of the graphic novel version of Hell House.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tortured Life by D Watters, C Wijngaard, N Gibson, J Wijngaard

Rating: WARTY!

This graphic novel tells the story of a guy named Richard Carter who lives in the infamous Whitechapel region of London, and who is undergoing Hikikomori - a Japanese word describing someone who has withdrawn from society for six months or longer - sometimes years.

Because of this reference to a Japanese cultural phenomenon, I mistakenly began to think this was set in Japan, but as evidenced by the fact that character is Caucasian, as is his ex-girlfriend and all of his friends and colleagues, and even a passing priest, I was forced to conclude that this was merely a reference, and nothing to do with the story. It wasn't until later that his name and place of residence was conformed.

Richard has undergone this withdrawal because of something awful which has overwhelmed him, and today he decides he's going to kill himself. He had a Schrödinger experience one day which precipitated all this and in it, he saw a cat lying in the street, at first dead, then alive, then dead. After a while he let the horror of it go, but then he has the same experience with a bird, and the visions become worse and start showing up with people that he sees. He's predictably saved by a young woman who dresses, shall I say, less than conservatively, and who is named Alice McNelly.

Shortly after Alice's arrival, Richard finds himself pursued by a beast from hell which only looks, vaguely, like it was once human. The beast's speech was awfully hard to read. Too small and blurry, red on black so I pretty much skipped reading those parts, especially when I realized what a juvenile mentality this chraracter had. He's also amused by bathroom humor. There's a weird part around page 65 and 66, where the image frames seem out of order. First the bad guy is in the toilets kicking open the doors one by one, then he's heading for the toilets, then he's back in there again kicking open the doors.

Richard's a slim guy, but he curiously appears to put on weight at the bottom of page 70. Maybe the bottom of page seventy just makes characters appear overweight?! Does this panel make me look fat?! I got to about page 140 of this 160-some page novel and could stand to read it no longer. It made some kind of sense to begin with, but then it took the road to weirdsville and never looked back.

It ceased making any sense, it became disjointed and unintelligible (this doesn't even include the illegible ramblings of the red skeleton man), and it persisted in endless gore, which never appeals to me. If you like all of that, then this is for you, but I cannot in good faith recommend this as a worthy read.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The October Faction Volume 1 by Steve Niles

Author: Steve Niles
Publisher: IDW
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Damien Worm.

This is another advance review copy of a comic book which arrived without a cover or any material listing the writers, artists, and so on. The first page is the first page of the story. You know I could understand ARC books coming out in the past without a cover if it wasn't ready yet, but there really is no excuse whatsoever in this electronic age for having no cover. Even if the cover art isn't yet done (and I'd have to wonder why, especially for a genre which places great stock in cover art), it's perfectly simple thing to put a blank cover with a note on it explaining the problem.

Normally, I'd also wonder if creators spent less time self-indulgently creating myriad cover variants, they might have one to spare for the actual cover, but in this case, even that doesn't apply since there is no back cover or variant art in the back either! That works for me, but it still doesn't excuse a lack of any sort of cover.

Having said that, the art work was interesting, if tending towards muddy earth tones too much. It used the full page, so no wasted trees here in the print version. It looks almost like it was done in water colors, which was a cool idea - or at least was done in a computerized mimic of water colors. For my taste, though, it was way too dark, and the text, once again, was really hard to read in the iPad in Bluefire Reader.

I think graphic novel creators still think nostalgically in terms of print books and that's a mistake. Reading it in Adobe Digital reader on a 19" monitor, which renders the image roughly the same size as a print comic, still gave some problems but was a lot more legible than the iPad view.

The story felt really hard to get into - and this is volume one! It felt like I came into something in progress, or had started reading volume two by mistake. There was very little given to guide the reader to what was happening or why. The first part of it which started making any sense was page fourteen where "Miss Vivian" comes home from her last day of high school, disgusted with all the frivolous behavior. On that score I can relate to her, and her description of the events as a "selfie apocalypse" was funny to me. She's so disillusioned with school hat she flatly refuses to go to the graduations ceremony.

The large house in which she lives - with a servant yet! - is reputed to be haunted. The dark deep-hued coloring now seemed to work a lot better. I like the way the artist brought reds into it, suggestive of blood, perhaps? Vivian's brother Geoff has finally managed to trap a spirit - in the closet! It's bound magically, so Vivian gets to open the closet door to see it, which was amusing. Shades of Harry Potter in the dark Arts class in Prisoner of Azkaban. They plan on letting it go. I'm not sure I would, given how the spirit looks, but this is just a proof of concept thing for them. They have some deal going for which they need their father's approval, and Geoff now believes they can get it, given his success here.

That part was winning back my favor, but then we abruptly quit the story for a few pages to go off elsewhere and I was lost again, and just beginning to become annoyed when we switched right back to Geoff and Vivian and the arrival of their father. I'm getting whiplash here! The demon which is supposedly trapped attacks their father and the only way they can scare it off is to show it its own reflection in a hand mirror, which causes it to flee, but Geoff and Vivian think their father's behavior is weird, not the fact that they had a pet demon! That was funny.

So, a bunch of mixed feelings about this, especially towards the negative need of the spectrum when I began it, but I grew increasingly favorable towards it as I read through it. This felt like an extended prologue more than anything else and I despise prologue sin regular novels. This one did introduce us to the family, but we learned very little about them and what's going on in their world. Volume two needs to come through with a lot more solid explanation about exactly what this world is and how it works. That said, I feel fine rating this as a worthy read with the caveats I've mentioned borne firmly in mind.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

House of the Last Man on Earth by Robert B Marcus Jr and Ryan B Marcus

Title: House of the Last Man on Earth
Author: Robert B Marcus Jr and Ryan B Marcus
Publisher: Mockingbird Lane Press
Rating: WARTY!

"Not only does he steal my bike but he flaunts me with it." Doesn't make sense. Should either be "Not only does he steal my bike but he taunts me with it." Or, "Not only does he steal my bike but he flaunts it right in front of me." Or words to that effect.

This novel was a bit of an oddity. The blurb looked interesting, so it suckered me in and I started in on it hoping the story would be up to the promise, but in the end the promise was squandered and I grew bored. The first thing which struck me was the huge amount of white space on the page at the start of chapter one, and on every page afterwards - 318 pages, with roughly 65% of the page as white space! I noted this in both the Adobe Digital Editions version and on the iPad in the Bluefire Reader version (that latter you can see a sample of on my blog). I sincerely hope it doesn't go to print form in this manner - it would be a shameful slaughter of trees is it ever sold in volume. And here I thought that a physician's commitment was to first "do no harm". I guess that dictum doesn't include trees!

The novel is also first person PoV, the most detestable of voices, but as it happened, that wasn't so bad. The real problem here was the tedious repetitiveness of the events, with the story going nowhere. I had to put it down to attend to another commitment, but when it came to pick it back up just a few days later, I could not bring myself to do it. I really couldn't. I had no interest in pursuing it when there are other, exciting possibilities between the covers with another author - so to speak!

The story is that main character Richard is an ex-Marine (he played in the band) and is now in college pursing something - he has no idea what. So despite the fact that being inducted into the Marines speaks well of him, overall, he's pretty much a loser, and he doesn't make any effort to improve himself. His main problem, other than his girlfriend dumping him and his hots for his math teacher, Mrs Lynch, is a chronic lack of cash - or a chronic inability to budget the cash he has. Why he's so short of cash I do not know. As ex-military, he should be able to get assistance to attend school, but maybe that doesn't cover living expenses.

The thing is that I really didn't like him at all. He was not a likable person. He lied for no good reason. He abused his ex girlfriend's good will for no good reason. He was really just a jerk. I saw no reason to root for him at all.

One of his tasks in his lodging house is to walk the landlady's dog, I think to skim a little off his rent. I found myself skimming some of the huge info dump we get as this novel gets into gear. The dog has a habit of going into the room of a rather odd lodger known as the ghoul. Chasing the dog up there one day, Richard ends up passing through some sort of portal in this room, and suddenly he's still in Boulder, Colorado, but there is no city there, only grass, trees, a sheer mountain range, and oddly, a house on a ledge, some five hundred feet up the rock face, with a taxing switchback stone staircase to get up there. There's no one in the house and no people visible anywhere. I find it impossible to believe that the aging dog he was walking would take off hell for leather for the stone stairs carved into the cliff face, and run all the way up to the house, but this is what we're expected to believe.

When Richard finally manages to find his way back home, he uses this as an excuse to talk to the young and disapproving math teaching assistant (Mrs lynch) about time travel - without, of course telling her that he's apparently undertaken just such an adventure. He has no evidence and would sound like a madman, but the problem with that is that later he gets physical evidence that something warped is going on here, and yet he fails to avail himself of it. I guess Richard ain't too smart, which begs the question: why would someone like Mrs Lynch be even remotely interested in him - because that's painfully obviously where this was headed? A tedious trope "love" interest did not help my interest. Quite the contrary.

The problem for me was that this magical portal only led downhill - at least that's how the story went: back and forth, back and forth. Richard goes through the portal. He comes back. He's attacked by something. He goes through the portal. He comes back. He's attacked by something. Wash, lather, rinse, and repeat. All this travel, yet the story is really going nowhere. I had no interest in that and I cannot recommend this novel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Twisted Dark by Neil Gibson

Title: Twisted Dark
Author: Neil Gibson (multiple illustrators)
Rating: WORTHY!

The first story, Suicide is very short, but it has a sting. The second, Routine is a father's relationship with his son, Koll, which is first abusive, then loving, then revelatory. After this we get a longer story about slavery and power titled A Lighter Note, which features an Indian guy (that's Indian, not Native American), named Rajeev who bemoans his marriage prospects given that he is so poor, and looks to improve his lot by working construction jobs in Dubai. The job isn't what he had hoped for - it's a lot worse, but what's a guy to do about it?

The fourth story, Windowpaynes is about Rodrigo and his new invention: windowpaynes. This is a window right out of sci-fi. One which transmits images and video like a giant monitor or TV. Rodrigo has a rather dangerous secret, though. Talking of images, the comic images don't always match the text in this story! For example, when we're shown the window sporting an image of the pyramids at Giza, the text refers to the Hong Kong skyline. When the text tells us that the screen can display Bondi Beach, the image shows us Venice. These are not views that can be readily confused! Evidently there was some miscommunication between artist and writer here. Either that or they just like messing with the reader.

The fifth story, The Game is set in a psychiatric hospital where at least one patient thinks nearly everyone is faking it and this is all a game. Is he right? I have to say the patients in this hospital seem to have extraordinarily large rooms and crampingly small beds! The sixth story is titled Blame, and is very short, but nicely-worded revenge story.

Next up is a sequel to Rajeev's story. This is titled A Heavenly Note and was frankly a bit of a bust. Following this, Cocaína is a story of drug dealers which held no interest for me. I started reading it but it was so boring that I couldn't stand to finish it.

The Pushman is a story about a guy who works on the Tokyo subway - he literally pushes people into the coach to make them fit and make room for more. I have to credit this graphic novel for being cosmopolitan. It's not confined solely to the US and to American stories, which is a big plus, but the guy in this story, Yoshi Higuchi, looks more Chinese than ever he does Japanese. He wanted to be an architect, but was, he believes, robbed of the opportunity, and now he gets his revenge on society in his own petty way. This story was not that great.

Münchausen's Little Proxy becomes more and more interesting as you read it, and being to realize that this story doesn't stand alone. I have worked in a hospital where a case of this actually showed up. It's one of the most lethal child abuse manifestations and can be hard to even recognize. Named after the fictional Baron Münchausen (who was based on a real life character), Münchausen's by Proxy is when the person in charge of the child fakes (or creates real) symptoms in a child. The basis of this, when done to one's self or to another, is primarily to garner attention of one sort or another.

I do have some complaints about this graphic novel. Once again the text is so small and poorly emphasized that even on a nineteen inch monitor (I read this in the Adobe Digital Editions reader), it was really quite hard to read it at times. Having to stop and squint periodically truly detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Naturally, in a graphic novel, you don't want the text obliterating the images, but there is a happy medium. This comic failed to find it. A graphic novel isn't just images (although it can be!), Usually it's also text, and if the text fails, it's just as bad as the images failing.

Some of the chapters have quotes preceding them, for example from Henry van Dyke, Marilyn Monroe, and Oscar Wilde, but the quotes are not sourced and I think they're more "folk quotes" than actual quotes from the people named. Some I know where accurate, but I was unable to confirm that any of those three people actually said what has been attributed to them.

The Oscar Wilde quote doesn't sound like him at all, and it was Darrin Weinberg who said, "It matters not whether you win or lose; what matters is whether I win or lose." Which is very close to what's quoted as coming from Wilde. You can tell how reliable a quote is by googling it and seeing what kind of web sites repeat it. In the first three pages of Google results for the Monroe quote for example, there wasn't one which stood out as a sterling or reliable source! Far too many purported "quotes" garner currency for themselves by repetition, not by accuracy.

That said, I recommend this graphic novel. While the graphics are pretty basic, they're not bad at all; only line drawings and gray scale, but not bad. The stories are sly in that some of them sneak around behind you and resurface in unexpected ways where you don't expect them. Some are interconnected. It's a worthy read.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monster Motors by Brian Lynch

Title: Monster Motors
Author: Brian Lynch
Publisher: Idea & Design Works, LLC
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Nick Roche.

There was no front cover on this - the comic opened right at page one! Hopefully that will be fixed in the actual published version. This graphic novel takes the term "Monster Trucks" literally! The story here is that Vic Frankenstein has come to Transylvania because in his opinion, it badly needs a motor mechanic. He has an assistant, IGOR - an acronym for Interactive Garage Operations Robot. Vic bought a garage/junkyard on the Internet. There was only one condition - never take down the "big, scary fence". Uh-huh.

He cleans up the garage and then heads out to drum-up business in town. He doesn't mind the drudge work or starting small. He has a saying "Michelangelo had to paint a few motels before they offered him that chapel." The problem is that as soon as he's fixed-up a few cars, he discovers the very next morning that those same vehicles are trashed. The only clue to the perp is two puncture wounds near the gas tank. Vic decides to lie in wait with IGOR to see what's going on and sure enough, he discovers a vampire car by the name of Cadillacula.

I loved this idea. I was almost willing to give it five stars based on the idea alone, but lots of people have great ideas for stories; the challenge is to deliver, and actually turn that idea into an entertaining novel. We have to see if this can be done, and in my opinion it was. You see, this series not only explores the twin stalwarts of Gothic horror, Dracula and Frankenstein, but also many other characters from the sci-fi and horror genres. I mean, surely you've heard of Minivan Helsing? The Lagoon Buggy? Wheelwolf?

Meanwhile, back at the garage, Vic's problems are taking a turn for the worst. Cadillacula returns and takes a bite out of his custom-made super-truck. Now, not only has he unleashed a monster, he has inadvertently given it super-powers! Naturally the only response to this is to build a Frankenstein monster of a truck from the parts of dead vehicles, but even this has unexpected consequences, as Vic is about to discover.

I really liked this story. It was fun, playful, inventive, beautifully illustrated and moved apace. I do confess I had to wonder initially, why there were so many skimpily-dressed females in Transylvania, but even that rather paled against the question of why there were so many American vehicles in Transylvania. I had thought that perhaps both questions could be answered when we understand that if there is one vehicle that the USA is really good at producing, it's a steamroller that goes by the name of Hollywood. Then later in the story I discovered that this was supposedly Transylvania, Kentucky, which actually no longer exists, just as the European Transylvania no longer exists.

In terms of complaints, I'd have to say there were almost none. One problem I did notice was that the inking was way too light. I liked that this writer doesn't feel the need to randomly bold odd words here and there, like comic book writers do way-the-hell too often, but the penmanship here was very faint-hearted making it a bit difficult to read at times. Other than that, I recommend this whole-heartedly.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Madame Frankenstein by Jamie S Rich

Title: Madame Frankenstein
Author: Jamie S Rich
Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Megan Levens.

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

I'm not sure what this has to do with the name 'Frankenstein' as such, since there's no one in this novel who goes by that name, but it is another retelling of the Frankenstein story. Set in 1932, it tells of Vincent Krall, mentally abused by the alpha male in his adoptive family, and run out of his college, sets out to prove his worth as a physician. His inspiration comes when the love of his life - a woman who really cares very little for him - is killed in a fiery motoring accident.

He takes her corpse and reanimates it, filling in the most badly damaged bits with spare body parts - the sources of which he has no qualms over. I mean, if someone's at death's door, you may as well hurry them through, right, if someone needs their organs?

His new woman looks very much like his old love, and he teaches her everything she needs to know about passing for human and being a woman, but for some reason, she's never quite enough for him. You know what they say about a woman scorned, right? On that same score, Vincent's "step-brother" is also onto him. He despises Vincent and knows he's up to something, but this simply makes him one more task which Vincent has to take care of, doesn't it?

Vincent fails to grasp just how much Henry knows and exactly who he's told about it, but that's the least of his troubles. What's he going to do when the woman in his life and starts getting it together? Is something going to start falling apart?

I highly recommend this one. Jamie Rich's story is credible and sensible (if a little crazy around the edges!). The artwork by Megan Levens is outstanding - clean, sharp line drawings, beautifully done and remarkably expressive. The whole comes together to make a great story with an ending which is, I have to say in the particular, even better than the sum of its parts....

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward

Title: Bleeding Earth
Author: Kaitlin Ward
Publisher: Egmont
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

I had problems with this novel right from the off. There were so many of them that it's hard to know where to start. It’s written in first person PoV which I detest because few writers can do it and make it readable without inducing nausea. There’s nothing more fingernails-on-a-chalk-board than someone constantly admonishing a reader to “Lookit ME! Lissen to ME! Nothing’s more important than what’s happening to MEEEEE!” Why so many writers choose this form is a mystery. I generally adore writers who do not and it seems so much more annoying in YA novels, probably because YA stories are all-too-often far more petty and frivolous than is literature aimed at a more mature readership, for reasons unknown.

This one begins with the narrator, Lea, trying to induce her friend Hillary to come into the graveyard with her, when it’s Hillary’s idea to go there in the first place! Hillary evidently has an irrational fear of graveyards which makes it problematic for her to do tracings of the gravestones for her family history project. Why she chose to trace rather than simply photograph was unexplained. Maybe her fear has grown because she’s lived directly across the street from the graveyard all her life? Familiarity breeds terror?

Lea sounds like a really needy person. She was responsible for Hillary’s breaking-up with her boyfriend because of this sorry neediness. What if Hillary’s boyfriend’s name had been Bill? Maybe history would be different?!

Anyway, as they’re leaving the cemetery, they walk right over a grave which is leaking blood – that’s how oblivious they are of their surroundings – and this is despite Lea’s ragging on Hillary, and despite Hillary’s supposed phobia. Neither of them notices until they step in it. Worse than this, they’re too stupid to grasp that a corpse isn’t going to leak blood, and even if it did, the blood isn’t going to come flooding up to the surface of the grave from six feet below. This creeping 'dumb-assery' problem becomes worse as the story goes on.

On the positive side, this isn’t your usual trope YA – Lea is lesbian, so there’s no bad-boy boyfriend around, and fortunately, Aracely (Lea’s girlfriend whose parents are French) isn't a “bad boy” who has hair falling into her eyes, and has gold flecks in her eyes, and is ripped, so it's not all bad! Lea is ‘out’ at school and at home, yet her best friend’s mother doesn’t know and apparently wouldn’t approve, so they keep her in the dark. Hmm! I wonder what the future of this relationship is going to be?

Well, on top of all that, Aracely isn’t out yet which is another inexplicable issue since…FRENCH! I know all French aren’t alike, but it seems to me there’d be a lot less judgment and opposition in French parents (actually one parent – her dad. Mom is not in the picture) than ever there would be with US parents, who tend to be much more conservative than Europeans.

The problem with Aracely is that Lea’s only attraction to her is that “She’s so, so pretty.” Seriously? Can you not think of a single thing to recommend her other than her skin? I don’t get why female writers so persistently do this to female characters. I don’t get why they don’t get that regardless of how the rest of the world objectively sees a person, they’re always beautiful to the person who loves them.

Hillary’s boyfriend is named after a brand of jeans and has “…the standard blond-haired, blue-eyed thing going on…”? What on Earth does that mean? That only Aryans are acceptable or that this is a standard because it’s the most common appearance? Both are so wrong that they couldn’t be more wrong without going around the other side and starting back towards right again. I don’t know what that phrase means, but blue-eyed boys are a common trope in YA written by white authors.

As she walks home, Lea passes “…an LED display with bright pink bulbs.” LEDs are not bulbs, so I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but we're conveniently distracted from that conundrum, because it’s right at that point that the earth starts bleeding – there is blood coming up from the side-walk, and for some reason this causes mass hysteria! Lea just goes home and watches TV like it’s any other day. Apparently the event is world-wide.

This blood “…doesn’t just drown the grass - it suffocates it.” I fail to see any real distinction here, but we can put that down to artistic license! The problem with the blood is that it’s rising everywhere and we’re told that it’s causing floods. It’s supposedly running down the streets like rain in a heavy rainstorm, but it’s not draining away, either, so it makes no sense.

Although it appears exactly like blood right down to the smell, apparently it’s not congealing like blood! How this welling of blood is causing society to break down is unexplained. We’re told that places like NYC have power outages, and that coastal areas are flooding, but there’s nothing offered to explain how, exactly, these things are actually occurring.

There seems to be this big deal about scientists not knowing whether it’s blood! Seriously? It would be the easiest thing in the world to identify whether it is or not, yet this is like a big mystery? It made no sense. Worse than this, after Lea informs us that Aracely wants to be a scientist, the latter remarks (after it starts raining blood) that blood is too thick to evaporate! Nonsense. The solid particles in blood won’t evaporate, of course, but the liquid – which is water (duhh!) will. But that’s not how it’s raining blood – it’s not like the blood is developing its own hydro-cycle! Once you have a story where blood is unaccountably welling-up from the earth itself, there’s no reason why it can’t magically precipitate from the sky, too.

At one point Aracely indicates that no one has yet determined what this red substance truly is, but only two pages later (and in the same time frame), Lea is saying that it’s been specifically identified as human blood, so there’s a big disconnect there (and Aracely’s scientific credentials take another hit!).

We read at one point: “…she smiles at me - I can tell by the crinkles at the corner of her eyes.” That's the only way to tall that someone is smiling?! I guess Aracely's so, so pretty lips don't do the trick? Or maybe the narrator, Lea, isn't very smart? There's a good case to be made for that. At one point, these idiot girls go out for a drive – in blood that’s a foot deep! Of course the car breaks down.

This blood flood is completely unrealistic - even within its own fictional framework. Despite this up-welling and raining of blood, life goes on pretty much as normal: everyone goes off to work, kids go off to school. What? There’s absolutely zero police presence. There is no national guard. There is no fire department. There's apparently no emergency! Worse than this, there's no fly problem! Flies swarm all over a bloody road-kill corpse yet here, when the entire world is covered in blood, there are no flies?

Lea’s mom is described as “firmly atheist”, but she’s later described as avidly reading the Bible? No, it's not going to happen! Not if she's an actual atheist as opposed to a fence sitter.<.p>

The blood is the only character that changes in this story! Or at least, it changes its character. First it’s not toxic, then it is, but only if drunk. It’s not airborne, then respirators are being handed out, but you have to go out in the blood to the courthouse to pick up your respirator? Despite there being shuttle buses to transport people around, Lea and Aracely choose to walk back home! In blood. A foot deep. That’s now supposedly toxic.

Later they go to a party in the park, in the toxic blood. That's a foot deep. That’s when I quit reading this nonsense. I will not recommend something as juvenile as this, not even to an undiscriminating YA audience.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Outcast by Robert Kirkman

Title: Outcast
Author: Robert Kirkman
Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated by Paul Azaceta and Elizabeth Breitweiser

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

I didn’t like this graphic novel. There was really nothing here for me to like. The story is by the same author who wrote the Walking Dead, so it’s hardly surprising that he came up with what amounts to the walking demonized. It’s really the same story. People, evidently randomly, are possessed by demons and turn into flesh-eating, bloody-mouthed zombies (for all practical purposes). Kyle Barnes is able to exorcise these demons. He teams up with a pastor and they set about doing the work that their god really ought to be doing if he existed.

It’s never made sense to me that it’s always up to us – no god has ever stepped in to lend a hand. It’s the same in this story. And the same, and the same again, since every time someone is possessed, we get the same story of Kyle and Pastor Pal tossing the demon out. Over and over with really no variation. The artwork was pretty decent if you like your artwork bloody and with a side of garden-fresh gore, but the story was really non-existent, which probably means it has what it takes to get made into a TV show….

Kyle’s wife left him and took their child, and won’t let Kyle get a look in. The police suspect him of abusing children because he forces demons out of them (which can leave a burn mark), but they can’t prosecute because no one will turn him in – not when he’s freed their loved one of an evil spirit. Kyle is depressed and the writer depresses us in turn by telling us just how depressingly depressed he is. I grew tired of reading same ol’ same ol’ over and over with very little variety.

Kyle’s endless flashbacks didn’t help at all (unless they’re done really well – and are truly necessary to the story – flashbacks as such are worthless for all intents and purposes), but they did provide some relief from the monotony of yet another exorcism. Plus Kyle was abused by his mother rather than his father, so that was a bit different, I admit, and I loved the double meaning in the title.

The story is set in West Virginia (that’s the largely virgin territory just west of Virginia…), so you’d think there would be something better to possess people with – how about coal creatures? Anthracite attacks? Some bitchin’ bitumen? No, it’s just demons. Why they’re doing it? Unexplained. How they’re doing it? Unexplained. What they hope to achieve? Unexplained. What Satan gets out of all this? Unexplained. Why God is asleep at the wheel here? Unexplained. So, not a lot of substance or plot. Maybe that comes in volume two?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Doll Face by Tim Curran

Title: Doll Face
Author: Tim Curran
Publisher: Dark Fuse
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Page 133 "Roach Hotel" should be "Roach Motel"

With this novel, page one is the front cover, and the cover is better than the novel - but as usual, the cover doesn't honestly represent anything that happens between the covers. I've been seeing this (the cover is page one) a lot in books I've reviewed lately. This means that the novel doesn't start until page six, and runs to page 268, so roughly 260 pages all told. Some of them were really good!

This is my first experience of this author, Tim Curran, and of this publisher, Dark Fuse, and I have to say that my initial impression was that the first thirty pages were what makes it worth trudging through the really bad stuff to find a novel like this. It’s like working a month in a crappy factory job just so you save enough for that decent pair of pants you need. It’s like sweating on a treadmill every day for a week so you can enjoy that little piece of cheesecake you promised yourself. It’s like seeing your kids, fresh-faced, energetic and vital, after a lousy day at work. Unfortunately, that feeling didn't last.

Chazz Akely, Creep Rodgers, Danielle LeCarr, Lex Fontaine, Ramona Lake and Soo-Lee Chang are driving home after a night out. Chazz is drunk as a skunk on junk, but he flatly refused Ramona's sober offer to drive. He was that kind of a dick. He missed the turn-off and ended up in a pissant village named Stokes. A village that hasn’t existed for half a century. As they careered into town, a figure steps out in front of the van which naturally rolled right over it. When Ramona finally convinced Chazz to go look at what they'd just hit, he agreed only because the van had stalled and wouldn’t start, so he couldn't drive away.

What the six of them hit in that van was so bizarre that none of them could believe it. I don’t want to give any more details - which will make it hard to write a review! - because the story is creepy and to this point it was good. It was one of those which makes you want to turn one page after another without stopping until you get to the end, but after around page 100, it made me want to turn pages simply to get it over with. The characters are alive and full of life, but for how long?

What’s chasing them around crazy town is also alive, but really it’s not. And no, it’s not zombies, although those of you who like zombie stories will likely feel right at home here. I don’t like zombie stories, but this one engrossed me. Who wouldn’t feel it for six young people who are trapped in a nightmarish world which seems to defy not only the laws of logic, but even those of physics? Their world now is one from which there seems to be no exit and which seems to change its nature even as they stand watching in stark, terrified disbelief.

There were some instances of bad grammar, such as "So when do we started acting?" on page 79, but in general, at first, the writing was good, dramatic, and inviting to read. it started out like this was no dumb-ass bunch of teens running round doing stupid, thoughtless stuff in the face of a psycho killer. But they deteriorated quickly. Around page 100, the whole novel went into a slump from which it never recovered. It was, at that point through to the end, nothing but rehashed "horrific" situations - the same thing that had happened before - changed slightly - but essentially repeated over and over again, and it was outright boring.

Indeed, it was so bad that it became a comedy rather than horror, with characters being killed off one-by-one in a manner just like your standard teen horror B-grade movie. That was when I checked out. I found myself skimming paragraphs, then pages, then chapters because it was no longer interesting to me. Eventually, I said, "The hell with it!" and I skipped to the last twenty pages just to see if the ending was any good. It was predictable, if you want to call that good, but predictable in the way the teen B horror movies are predictable - with the same kind of twist ending. I can't recommend this unless you just want to read the just first 100 pages or so!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Shining by Stephen King

Title: The Shining
Author/Editor: Stephen King
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Rating: WORTHY!

It’s time for a pair of creepies for Halloween! Stephen King's third published novel is the only one of his that I really like. I've read several and never found another one which matches this one. My problem with King is that he reached a point shortly after this novel where he couldn't tell a story without telling the entire history of every character in the story, and it’s quite simply b-o-r-i-n-g! This novel wasn't. It was a bit long, but it had enough weirdness and action in it to keep it cooking beautifully. The way the hotel slowly absorbs King like a paper towel sucking up spilled tomato juice is delicious.

The first time I ever read this was when I was working night shift at a place where I wasn't required to do a whole heck of a lot besides keep an eye on things, so it was a great time and place to read it, too.

The novel begins with Jack Torrance, who has anger management issues and who is living on the edge, glad to finally get a job where he can get paid and also write. Which of us doesn’t dream of that?! The problem is that the job is caretaking the Overlook Hotel, which is a great place to stay in the summer, but which is totally cut off in the Colorado Rockies in winter, with no hope for outside help if anything goes wrong. Yeah - this is Stephen King, so you know everything is going to go wrong.

So while it begins with Jack (yeah, I know, yet another novel with a character named Jack. Just grin and bear it. Sooner or later writers are going to tire of that name, and then we'll get some respite.), it’s really about his young son Danny. Danny is the one who shines - meaning, in King's bizarre and obscure lexicon, that he has telepathic and clairvoyant powers and sees spirits which, frankly, terrify him. The third character is Jack's wife, Wendy.

Finally there's Dick Hallorann, the chef at the Overlook, who's headed for warmer climes for the winter. He discovers that Danny shines, and connects with him - telling him that if there's any trouble, Danny should just mentally call him, and he would come and help. Dick warns Danny not to go into a certain room, and to just ignore any spirits he might see here.

Oh, there is one other character: Delbert Grady, a former caretaker who went beyond "lost it" one winter and killed his entire family, including himself. He never actually left the hotel, however, and now Danny is here, he's working inadvertently as a sort of amplifier for the evil that lurks within it’s very fabric and structure.

The hotel wants to absorb Danny, but it can’t get him, so it turns attention upon the weakest link: Jack. Jack slowly starts losing it, especially when he has a fight with his wife and subsequently discovers that the hotel bar is fully stocked where it had previously been empty. Or it just his imagination?

The more he's sucked in by the oppressive and all-pervasive evil atmosphere of the hotel, the more he feels pressure to do to his own family what Grady did to his. It’s not long before all-out hostilities break-out, with Jack getting locked in a pantry because he's downright dangerous, and Wendy locking herself in a room into which Jack tries to break before she cuts him with a knife.

It’s at this point, where the whole hotel is coming alive and the creepiness factor is rapidly being dialed to eleven, that Danny lets out a massive mental shout for Dick, who gets it so hard that he almost collapses. He immediately sets off for the Overlook, not knowing how he will ever get there, but determined to do so.

One thing Jack neglects in his single-minded pursuit of Danny - so that he can turn him over to the hotel, is the hotel boiler, which 'creeps', and which will explode if not frequently attended to. This is what eventually takes out Jack, as Wendy and Danny escape with Dick.

This novel is nothing short of brilliant and I highly recommend it if by chance you haven't read it yet.