Tag Archives: horror

Undead by Kirsty McKay

Undead by Kirsty McKay (unabridged audiobook read by Amy Shindler; 7.25 hrs on 6 discs): New girl Bobby is on a ski trip with her high school class to Scotland. Shortly after they stop at a cafe in the middle of nowhere, her classmates all turn into zombies. From there they all run for their lives, and it’s actually quite clever and funny. Bobby has typical teenage girl concerns without being obnoxious, the zombies are gross and scary without being gory, and the scenery changes more frequently than your average horror movie. The humor had me laughing out loud in places, and there were a couple moments of actual suspense. In short, I really enjoyed it, and now I want to read the sequel.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett: The title of this book is somewhat misleading: American Elsewhere sounds like it should be about numerous locations across the country, not a tiny town in New Mexico, but that’s neither here nor there. Shortly after the death of her deadbeat father, Mona Bright learns she has inherited a house from her long-deceased mother in tiny Wink, New Mexico. The locals are mostly friendly but somewhat aloof, unused to strangers and seemingly afraid of basically everything. Mona later learns that there’s more to this town than she thought, from defunct super-secret government facilities to creatures that may or may not be old gods to her own mother’s mysterious past. The influence of Stephen King on this writer is obvious and extensive. Which is fine, if you like King, and I’m okay with King. This book, clocking in at just under 700 pages, is perhaps too long, but it doesn’t drag much. If you like atmospheric horror with some monsters thrown in, you may enjoy this one. As it is, I do not feel inspired to pick up any other works by this author.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells: The set-up to this story is somewhat unusual, as it begins with a stranger wrapped in bandages arriving at an inn on a snowy night. Everyone assumes he’s horribly disfigured, and the text goes on a bit as if that is indeed the case, but given the title we the reader are well aware that he is in fact invisible. That said, I did very much enjoy this story. It’s more of a horror story than I expected, with the titular character unquestionably playing the part of the villain (as opposed to a mostly well-meaning scientist cursed by his own hubris, as with Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll). The pitfalls of invisibility (such as being able to see through one’s own eyelids, for example) added a certain spark to the narrative, and parts were surprisingly suspenseful. The Invisible Man’s motivations were sort of vague and unsatisfying, but in general I recommend this book.

The Burning Time by J.G. Faherty

The Burning Time by J.G. Faherty: If you like cheesy horror movies, this is the novel for you. Two strangers arrive in a small town more or less at the same time, and between them they turn it completely upside down. One worships Lovecraftian gods like Cthulu, while the other has spent his life fighting against them. As the Bad Guy’s influence grows, the temperature rises and the townspeople get violent all over the place. If you like senseless gore – sometimes humorous, sometimes just disturbing – well, this book certainly has plenty of it. The plot itself doesn’t go anywhere new, and the love interest bit feels completely forced, but all in all it’s a decent little horror tale.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Ring by Koji Suzuki

Ring by Koji Suzuki: I’ve seen the movie inspired by this book (both the American and Japanese versions), and while they were decidedly creepy, the scares were mostly visual so I figured I’d be okay with the book. And I have to say that the films are much more engaging. For one thing, the iconic stringy-haired girl who crawls out of the television doesn’t even make an appearance here. The characters are either superfluous or kind of awful, and many of the details are so silly as to feel forced. The story of VHS tape that kills you a week after watching it is a neat idea, and I like the general storyline, but it’s simply told far better by the films.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe Hill (unabridged audiobook read by Fred Berman; 13 hrs 45 min on 12 discs): Ig wakes up one morning, hungover and with no memory of the previous night’s activities, to find he has grown horns on his head. Even more disturbing, everyone he meets starts confessing their most horrible deeds and desires to him. He remains the only suspect in the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Merrin, a year prior, so many of these confessions include people’s belief in his guilt. Ig’s brother Terry is a famous trumpet player with a late-night variety show; his best friend Lee is a bit of a weirdo who works for a local politician; his new sort-of-girlfriend Glenna is a good-hearted girl who is pitifully desperate for love. The story of Ig’s search for Merrin’s real killer is interlaced with flashbacks of high school events when his relationships with her and Lee began. Though there are some undeniably horrifying moments and this book is certainly not for the squeamish, nothing ever felt gratuitous. I felt a surprising affection for Ig and Terry; there were parts during the last few chapters when I was smiling through tears. Definitely recommended.

A note on the audio: Berman’s character voices were subtle but distinct. I could recognize Ig and Lee and Merrin and Glenna even before they were named as speakers. There were a few screams that Berman reproduced with gusto – a bit disconcerting to hear while driving – and overall the whole narrative was well done.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Green Mile by Stephen King

The Green Mile by Stephen King: I have found I prefer King’s non-horror stories, and this was no exception. This is a serial novel in six parts (and I actually own all six individual books, in addition to the six-in-one paperback), so I’ll review each one separately.

1. The Two Dead Girls: Not a whole lot happens in this section except for exposition: you learn of John Coffey’s crime, brutally murdering and raping two young sisters, and you get to know the narrator (Paul) and some of his coworkers. One thing I noticed was that Coffey’s guilt is just assumed without much in the way of evidence. This big black man is found holding the two corpses and sobbing away, and everybody figures he must have been the one who killed them. “I couldn’t help it” could have multiple meanings, especially since he didn’t elaborate. But I guess being a black man in 1930s Louisiana was crime enough for these folks. Anyway, it was a fine enough start, though if I didn’t already have the rest of the series I probably wouldn’t have been interested enough to continue.

2. The Mouse on the Mile: I love Mr. Jingles. The dichotomy between him and the other major character introduced – the evil William Wharton – is interesting. I like how Mr. Jingles’s un-mouse-like intelligence is neither questioned nor explained, nor is Wharton’s sheer malice for everyone he encounters. Can’t wait for the next one.

3. Coffey’s Hands: Man oh man, does this one end on a cliff-hanger. Granted, I’ve seen the movie so I know (more or less) what happens, but it’s been so many years that I’d forgotten much of it. It’s at this point that Edgecomb starts to doubt Coffey’s guilt and Percy starts to go over the edge. You can feel the tension build.

4. The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix: This one is certainly well-named. For all I might not like his horror plots, King certainly knows how to describe gore vividly. That’s a mental picture I won’t be forgetting any time soon. I didn’t think I could hate Percy any more than I already did, but I managed.

5. Night Journey: Honestly, I think this was the most suspenseful installment of the entire series. Edgecomb and his crew sneak Coffey out of the prison to drop in on the warden, and any number of things could go wrong at any moment. Of course, we’re not entirely out of the woods yet, with one more book to go.

6. Coffey on the Mile: Hoo boy. If you’re looking for a good cry, you’ll probably get one reading this. I thought I was okay after the first heart-wrenching scene, but two or three more after that really got me going. But in a good way. The ending is reasonably satisfying, and kind of thought provoking. After all, since it’s told in first person it’s impossible to know for sure what happens to the narrator after the story is finished, and that kind of open-endedness is sort of neat for this sort of tale.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (unabridged audiobook read by David Ledoux, 12 hrs 11 min on 11 discs): I have discovered that I generally don’t go for short story collections, but after reading Heart-Shaped Box, I figured I could make an exception for Joe Hill. I’m glad I did. Most of the stories could be classified as some variety of horror, and those were generally my favorites. I particularly enjoyed Voluntary Committal, The Black Phone, and 20th Century Ghost. Definitely recommended, though not for the squeamish. He is his father’s son, after all – though I would argue that Hill is the better storyteller of the two.

A note on the audio: Ledoux is simply excellent. This is what voice acting is supposed to be. His tone, inflection, usage of stuttering and dramatic pauses – all of it adds to the atmosphere of each story. Brilliant. I definitely need to pick up other books he’s narrated.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe: I have several overlapping collections of Poe, so I decided, once I’d finished reading them all, to put them all together in a single post here. I think by and large that I like Poe, but he seems to alternate between marvelous horror at his best and boring nonsense at his worst.

  • The Assignation – I couldn’t follow this one. What did the drowning child and the art aficionado have to do with one another?
  • The Balloon-Hoax – Wow. That was really boring.
  • The Bells – Fun to read aloud.
  • Berenice – Delightfully disturbing.
  • The Black Cat – Deliciously horrific.
  • The Cask of Amontillado – I think makes Poe so memorable is his vivid first-person accounts from the point of view of a killer.
  • A Descent into the Maelstrom – Not too memorable.
  • Diddling – A random essay on swindling.
  • The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar – Enjoyably bizarre.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher – Not as interesting as his others, but good atmosphere.
  • Hop-Frog – Um. What is this man’s obsession with orangutans?
  • The Imp of the Perverse – A strange little story on why we knowingly act not in our own interest – such as lying, procrastinating, drinking, and other things sure to get us into trouble – to explain a confession of murder.
  • Ligeia – Didn’t really go anywhere.
  • The Man That was Used Up – Silly, amusing, but ends a bit too abruptly.
  • The Masque of the Red Death – Meh. Weird for no reason and kind of boring.
  • Metzengerstein – I’m not sure I entirely understand what happened in this one.
  • MS. Found in a Bottle – Good suspense, but the ending confused me.
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue – A rather silly Holmes-esque mystery tale.
  • The Mystery of Marie Roget – Needlessly complicated and hard to follow. There’s a reason Holmes became famous and Dupin did not.
  • The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym – Some good bits, but I think I just don’t like maritime fiction.
  • The Pit and the Pendulum – A delightful tale of suspense.
  • The Purloined Letter – Not bad, but far too wordy.
  • The Raven – An old favorite. I love the contrast between the subject matter and the singsong cadence.
  • A Tale of the Ragged Mountains – Kind of weird. I’m not sure if I liked it or not.
  • The Tell-Tale Heart – Funnier than I’d remembered. One of my all-time favorites.
  • “Thou Art the Man” – Clever but very predictable.
  • William Wilson – Brilliant piece of horror.

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King: When reading King novels, I’ve often felt that the idea was good but the execution was too long and drawn out, and that in general his works would be better as short stories. So I picked up this collection of short stories and was less impressed than I’d hoped. Some of the tales were good, such as the title story, the first-person account of a man about to be autopsied alive, and the man who had been captured by terrorists, but I found most of the rest fairly forgettable. I guess I expected to be scared, at least a little bit. However, I’m not giving up just yet. I’ve been told by many King fans that his earlier stuff is best, so I’ll be on the look-out for a copy of Night Shift.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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