Posts filed under 'Horror'
I’ve read plenty of horror fiction, running the range from spine-tingling to horrifyingly gory. What I want in my horror is a sympathetic character with whom I can identify in some way who has been drawn into a paranormal situation over which he or she has no control. I want the suspense to build. I want to be compelled to look over my shoulder as I’m reading it. It seems that so many horror novels that have come out recently have a cinematic edge to them. The descriptions are endless where a creak or squeak would do. Unlike the more artful work of authors like Peter Straub or Joe Hill, I’m finding that rather than fleshing out characters, creating suspense, and letting me stew on it, that the action is often non-stop, and the ending is a crescendo of supernatural activities that even as described are difficult to imagine and ruin the chill. Perhaps it is just harder to frighten me after years of reading and watching horror. What do you think? Who are the best contemporary horror novelists out there? Which authors cause you to look under the bed?
April 24th, 2011
I’ve always been a Stephen King fan, so I was pretty sure I’d enjoy his latest. What is notable about his work is that he is a natural storyteller and even his most unreal plots become entirely believable in his capable hands.
Full Dark, No Stars consists of four novellas of psychological horror. While there’s the suggestion of the paranormal at times, the real horror he shows is what humans are capaple of doing and justifying and the aftermath of such actions. Although you can see these train wrecks coming, you won’t want to look away as King takes your incredulity and turns it into belief, and then relief that it’s just a story, after all.
King fans won’t hesitate to pick this one up and although it looks hefty, as many of his recent novels are, the novellas provide just the right amount of story for an entertaining, if intense, read.
Find Full Dark, No Stars in our catalog.
January 31st, 2011
In the city of Stockholm, the power grid has gone out of control. Electrical appliances won’t shut off and the high-pitched whine from the uncontrolled current drops the city’s inhabitants to their knees with unbearable headaches. And then…it’s over. Or so it seems. As people pick themselves back up, one more side effect becomes apparent.
The dead have begun to come back to life.
David, a wildly grieving husband still by the side of a hospital bed in which his wife Eva has only just died following a car accident, is shocked and terrified when she opens her one remaining eye and attempts to croak his name, despite the huge hole in her chest and the piece of her head that is no longer attached. Mahler, an aging, overweight journalist rushes to the graveyard in which his grandson Elias was recently buried and desperately digs up the partly mummified…but horribly animated…corpse of the little boy, taking him home to Mommy. Elvy, a psychic grandmother and Flora, her equally psychic though emotionally disturbed granddaughter, are shocked when the corpse of Granddad comes knocking at their door, pretending to be alive—though the deeply religious Elvy believes the Resurrection has come.
Unlike a gory Romero-type zombie movie, these undead—or “reliving,” as they are dubbed—do not hunger for brains. They barely do anything at all unless prompted by outside influences or situations. Much more of the focus of this novel is upon just how the government might actually react to a plague of undeath, and, more than that, how the families of those resurrected would cope with or feel about their loved ones coming back to them in such grossly altered form.
Slow-paced, but burning with tension under the surface, this is a thoughtful novel. Those looking for mile-a-minute chills and gooey zombie slayings will be mostly disappointed. Those looking for a reinvention of the zombie genre along the lines of the author’s earlier reinvention of the vampire genre will find much of interest.
Find Handling the Undead in our catalog.
October 30th, 2010
Horror comes in so many flavors. There is psychological horror that doesn’t involve the supernatural or the occult (The Silence of the Lambs). There is the horror that provokes terror and deals with the monsters of our nightmares (The Shining). There is is dark fantasy, which is not as violent or frightening (American Gods), and there is splatterpunk, which focuses on extreme violence with a gross-out factor (Books of Blood). This week, I’m focusing on your typical haunted house type of supernatural horror. These are the ghosts that go bump in the night, the poltergeists who upset the household along with the furniture, and the spirits who remain as guardians of their property. Here are some of my favorite haunted house novels:
Due, Tananarive. The Good House
Girardi, Robert. Madeleine’s Ghost
Hill, Joe. Heart-Shaped Box
King, Stephen. Bag of Bones
Monahan, Brent. The Bell Witch
Niffenegger, Audrey. Her Fearful Symmetry
Siddons, Anne Rivers. The House Next Door
Straub, Peter. Ghost Story
October 28th, 2010
Kiernan, who has been described as “H.P. Lovecraft’s spiritual granddaughter,” here presents a collection of 20 short stories displaying her characteristic dark, tightly crafted genre stories that range from horror through dark fantasy through ghost story and the just plain unexplainable. Kiernan’s prose is visceral and throbbing, and her imagery is taut, often using abstruse scientific terminology when describing the utterly unreal and nightmarish. Sexuality and obsession pulse through many of the stories and the narrators often find themselves in the thrall of hypnotically powerful and not-quite-sane lovers. Stand-outs in the collection include the title story, in which a serial killer and a violinist both achieve the pinnacle of their craft; “The Madam of the Narrow Houses,” featuring a woman born to minister to ghosts; and “The Lovesong of Lady Ratteanrufer,” in which a troubled young woman falls in love with the king of the rats and brings her own sort of doom to his enemies.
Find The Ammonite Violin and Others in our catalog.
October 12th, 2010
This is not Koontz’ latest, or best, but still, it’s fun, a little creepy, and involves a scary doll that comes to life in a very unusual fashion, so what’s not to like? In Tick Tock, Tommy Phan hears a knock at his door one evening and opens it to find a crudely fashioned rag doll on the porch. When he brings it in the house, his troubles begin. When a millionaire artist/waitress/race car driver named Del shows up to give Tommy a hand, things get even crazier in a hurry. Incorporating humor with horror, Tick Tock is a great page-turner of a beach read.
August 3rd, 2010
At 6:18 PM on December 21, Sue Young, a single mother, receives a call that will change her life forever. The man on the other end of the phone informs her that he has kidnapped her infant daughter Veda and, unless Sue does exactly as he says, will kill Veda. Sue, a trained ambulance driver with nerves of steel, leaps into action, following the kidnapper’s instructions as closely as she’s able. He tells her to bring a shovel and a canvas sheet and directs her to drive to a particular spot in her old home town…a spot Sue has good reason to know well. When she was young, she and another child killed a man they suspected to be a serial killer nicknamed the Engineer and buried him on that spot. And now, many long years later, the voice on the phone directs Sue to dig up the buried corpse, put it in her trunk, and drive a very particular route through the Massachusetts countryside. As Sue drives the route, she passes through a series of towns, all of which contain statues of a historical figure by the name of Isaac Hamilton…but in each further town along the route, the statue is missing one more body part. At first thinking this is just a historical curiosity, Sue soon realizes that both the Engineer and the voice on the phone have a strange connection to Hamilton—a well-known serial killer from the 1800s. If she finishes the route the voice on the phone has laid out for her, the consequences may be dire—but if she doesn’t finish the route, her beloved daughter is certain to die a horrible death.
Fast-paced and thrilling, this novel starts out a seemingly run-of-the-mill thriller but swiftly morphs into a story of ancient horror and paranormal evil with some genuinely chilling moments. Enjoyable.
Find Chasing the Dead in our catalog.
July 21st, 2010
Dr. Lionel Barrett has spent his entire career attempting to prove that so-called paranormal or psychic phenomenon are real—but that they are entirely natural, scientifically-explainable phenomena, not supernatural occurrences and certainly not evidence of life after death. So, when he is offered $100k by a rich but dying man to investigate the haunted house known as “Hell House” and provide definitive explanation for paranormal phenomena, he leaps at the chance and immediately packs up his equipment…and his wife…to make the trip.
Considered by some in Barrett’s field to be the most haunted house in the world, Hell House is also extremely dangerous. The last time a group tried to investigate the house, it left eight people dead and one, a young psychic named Ben Fischer, bleeding and naked on the front porch. But Ben, too, has been offered money by the dying millionaire to return to the house and confront its evil again. Older and wiser, Ben agrees, hoping to give closure to that part of his life. Rounding out their group is another medium, Florence Tanner, who is altogether too psychically open for Ben’s tastes, and altogether too convinced of her own supernatural views for Barrett’s. Upon their arrival, the hellish atmosphere of the house makes itself known almost immediately. Benign incidents like the rocking of an empty rocking chair swiftly escalate into violence, and the four suddenly find themselves in a fight for both their lives and their sanity as unseen forces buffet them at every turn.
Taut and thrilling, Matheson’s novel has been dubbed the “scariest haunted house novel ever written” by none other than Stephen King. And he should know!
Find Hell House in our catalog.
June 24th, 2010
Creepy new novel from the master (Ghost Story), Peter Straub, it’s the tale of four high school students in Madison, WI, who fall under the spell of a traveling Guru who recruits students at college campuses to do his bidding. The young four are from poor circumstances, and are thrilled that they are asked to join the college students and the Guru as they try to break through to a new reality. Unfortunately, at the Guru-orchestrated ceremony/seance, something horrific occurs that leaves one student dead, and the rest forever-changed. Years later, the author/husband of one of the four sets out on a quest to discover what really happened that night in Madison and discovers that each participant has a very different and haunting story to tell.
With enough suspense to keep the pages turning, Straub has once more turned out a memorable tale of dark fantasy.
Find A Dark Matter in our catalog.
May 25th, 2010
Jessamy Harrison, the child of a British father and a Nigerian mother, is a sensitive, intelligent, and altogether difficult child. Prone to reading Shakespeare and writing haiku at the tender age of 8, she is also antisocial and regularly throws screaming tantrums that literally make her feverish and ill. Her mother, concerned that her mixed-race child has no connection to Nigeria, takes Jess to visit her extended family there. Making few connections other than to her beloved grandfather, Jess feels almost as isolated in Nigeria as in England. When she meets a Nigerian girl about her own age, therefore, Jess is desperate to make friends. Nicknaming her new friend TillyTilly because she has trouble pronouncing her Yoruba name, Jess throws herself wholeheartedly into making TillyTilly like her. After Jess and her family return to England, however, the strange and fey TillyTilly shows up there as well, claiming her family has moved into the area. Jess is too thrilled by having her friend back to really question that story, or even to question why no one but she herself ever seems to see TillyTilly. Soon, their friendship turns cruel and obsessive as TillyTilly demonstrates a strange knowledge of dark magic and darker secrets and Jess begins to realize that her friend is no friend at all, but might just be a spirit out of Yoruba myth—or might be a repressed part of Jess’s own psyche.
Dark, disturbing, and creepily ambiguous, The Icarus Girl adroitly captures the confusion and fear of an intelligent, but young, child thrust into situations beyond her ability to grasp. The mingling of Yoruba myth and Western psychology is apt and compelling.
Find The Icarus Girl in our catalog.
May 11th, 2010
Joe Hill’s second novel (after Heart-Shaped Box) was worth the wait. It has been one year since the brutal rape and murder of Ignatius (Ig) Parrish’s high school sweetheart Merrin. Not only does he mourn her death, Ig himself was the only suspect in her murder and, though he was never convicted, the whole town is convinced he did it. In his anger and rage, he goes on a drinking binge at the site of Merrin’s death, cursing God.
He wakes up the next morning to discover that a pair of horns have sprouted on his forehead. Convinced he’s hallucinating, Ig heads for the hospital. But it isn’t long before he realizes that the horns are all too real, and, in addition, seem to have a strange effect on anyone who sees them: everyone Ig meets is suddenly compelled to confess all of their darkest thoughts and desires to him, and a mere word of encouragement from him can push them into actions they’d never otherwise take. In addition, any physical contact brings knowledge of their cruelest sins flooding into Ig’s mind. Now, in a lot of ways, this is a curse…no one really needs to know that his own grandmother is so ashamed of her murderer grandson that she wishes he were dead, do they? However, for Ig, it provides an unexpected benefit. Using his new abilities, he can finally track down the one who really killed Merrin and take his own special revenge on the twisted killer.
Combining skillfully shaped flashbacks with Ig’s often brutal current-day quest, Horns casts new light on the true nature of good, evil, and the places they occupy within the human mind.
Find Horns in our catalog.
April 5th, 2010
In this authorized sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula, his great-grandnephew teams with a Dracula scholar to present the surviving members of the band of heroes 25 years after their original bloody battle. Dr. Jack Seward has descended into penury and opium addiction. Arthur Holmwood has retreated from the public eye, still mourning his lost love, Lucy. Mina Harker, due to her ingestion of Dracula’s blood, has hardly aged a day and has thrown herself into raising son Quincy and maintaining the appearance of a respectable lady and wife. Jonathan Harker, tormented by his wife’s agelessness—a constant proof of her infidelity—is a drunkard and has turned mean. Dr. Van Helsing has aged greatly, his weak heart constantly on the edge of stopping entirely. Bram Stoker, too, is a character in this novel. Here, Stoker is presented as an aging theatre owner with literary ambitions who took the true story of the band of heroes—told to him over drinks in a bar by one of the survivors—and turned it into an unsuccessful penny dreadful Gothic novel and is now attempting a dramatic adaptation for the stage. Young Quincy Harker, who has theatrical ambitions of his own, manages to enlist famous Romanian actor Basarab for the lead role. But when members of the original band of heroes begin dying violent, bloody deaths, the survivors fear that Dracula survived their attack after all and is out for revenge. But the true evil stalking them…the blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory…is more terrifying than the heroes could ever imagine.
Though the authors claim to have based their sequel upon Bram Stoker’s notes and papers, this is not the Dracula you remember. Now explicitly connected to the historical Prince Vlad Drakul, the character, while still an undead blood-sucking vampire, does not consider himself to be evil or soulless; but to be a warrior for God and protector of Christendom…a Knight in the Order of the Dragon, as was the historical Drakul. The motives of many of the character’s actions in the original novel are here revised, seen from the other side of the coin. His fangs have not been pulled, but he is not the monster Bram Stoker originally wrote. Elizabeth Bathory, based upon the historical Countess said to have bathed in the blood of virgin girls to maintain her youthfulness, fulfills that role—though her motives in hunting down the band seem flimsy at best and the addition of her lesbianism to the plot seems forced and sensationalist.
No more than competently written, with scenes of explicit sexuality and violence, the novel is an interesting addition to Dracula lore…though it does not compare at all favorably to the original. None of the characters are particularly likable (with Quincy Harker himself being the most spineless and callow of the lot) and the inclusion of plots dealing with the Jack the Ripper murders and a highly unsatisfying ending complete the picture of a novel trying far too hard to please a modern audience and forgetting what made the original great.
Find Dracula: The Undead in our catalog.
January 25th, 2010