I wanted to put out a few reviews of horror books for those of you inquiring about good reading material besides Stephen King. True, the following are not entirely recent books, but I just finished reading them, and the opinions are still fresh in my head, so they’re recent to me! All of these following books may be purchased through any large book store or through www.amazon.com.
REVIEWED: Haunted: A Novel WRITTEN BY: Chuck Palahniuk PUBLISHED: 2006 HAUNTED is a collection of short stories that, interrelated, compose the greater make-up of a full-size novel, as each story is the flashback of one of the characters. Chuck Palahniuk is best known as the author of “FIGHT CLUB” which became the Fincher masterpiece movie in 1999. HAUNTED is often lauded on the “best of” lists of modern horror literature. Coupled with the fact that I’m a Palahniuk fan, and I was excited to jump into this. Unfortunately, this book just didn’t work that well for me. The plot revolves around a group of writers who become locked inside an abandoned movie theatre by their mysterious benefactor. However, instead of trying to escape, they each decide that the more horrific they make their own circumstances, then the greater story they will have to tell (and, by proxy, notoriety) once they are rescued. Thus, they destroy their own food, sabotage the heating and plumbing, and invent villains amongst themselves, almost like a “Lord of the Flies” for adults. Each character’s flashback is a short story of itself, and Palahniuk doesn’t hold back when going through the gambit of the most perverse and horrific scenarios one would dare to imagine. Indeed, in the book’s afterword Palahniuk details how on a book tour, there was a rash of people who fainted after he read excerpts of the stories. Although the book is a satirical view of culture and human motivation, I feel the author sacrificed absorbing writing for shock and absurdity. It’s very intelligent, but also felt “preachy,” and though the characters represented all different backgrounds, they mostly were each cut from the same cloth: selfish, troubled, and redundant. What else can I say? Palahniuk is a master, and the critics adore this book. I just found it too self-serving and not the escape into imagination that I usually seek when reading fiction literature. Three and a Half out of Five stars
REVIEWED: Neverwhere WRITTEN BY: Neil Gaiman PUBLISHED: 2003 (first published as a miniseries script, 1996) It’s really been a long time since I’ve read a dark fantasy book as absorbing as NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman. Suffice it to say, this novel was fascinating, exciting, funny, scary, and overall simply brilliant. Whatever happens to the “people who fall between the cracks in society,” The homeless, the runaways, the forgottens? They literally fall into another “mirrored” world below, composed beneath the sewers of London and built with the magic and lost technology that is forgotten today. In “London Below” entire villages may have fallen through the world and people from all walks of life converge, in a world of shadows, conspiracy, monsters, angels, and crime. Gaiman’s style of writing seems so effortless and natural. It’s very warm and conversational, as if he were telling the story to you in person while sitting at a county pub with a couple pints of suds. It’s smart and entertaining and satisfying. Gaiman has a talent for world building, and there are a host of background characters who are all just as fascinating as the main characters. This book has been made into a T.V. Series for both BBC and again for A&E and a comic series through DC Comics, so it’s really gotten around. Highly recommended for lovers of adventure, dark fantasy, and light horror. Five out of Five stars
REVIEWED: The Terror WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons PUBLISHED: 2009 Up until the ending, this book was flawless. Not to take anything away from the ending – it was okay – but just not as powerful as the rest of this book. And when I say powerful, I mean my-heart-was-racing-and-I-could-not–put-this-down sensational. This is really just one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, which is no small amount. The Terror is written from multiple points of view from the perspective of a crew of 126 sailors aboard two ships that are seeking the Northwest Passage in 1845. The ships become crushed by ice in an abnormally frigid ocean that keeps them prisoner for several years. Not only must the men fight the Arctic elements and starvation to remain alive, but an evil creature begins to attack the trapped vessels, picking off the sailors one-by-one. Imagine the movie ALIENS or John Carpenter’s THE THING if set aboard sinking ships in the mid-nineteenth century. Then add in cannibalism, rats, years-long misery, murder, mutiny, lots of rum, mysterious Eskimos, rich mythology, and a demonic creature that can apparently move through the ocean ice. Yes, my fingernails were gnawed to the quick. Dan Simmons has an amazing voice in his writing, able to transport the reader into the established rules and rigid beliefs of Victorian-era sailors. Not only that, but the author makes you feel the “cold” of the ice, the “hunger” of slowly starving to death, and the “fear” of being hunted by a creature that is only glimpsed. As I mentioned, the ending was my only issue. Not that it was bad, just… a “change” in the writing perspective which made sense to the story arc but still left me somewhat deflated. Warning for all: This book is tragic and depressing. It is an amazing story of exploration and survival, but readers who don’t like it regularly complain of its despondency. This is true – it is 765 pages of gut-wrenching despair although, also, told in such beautiful prose that it still covers the whole gambit of other human emotions. Six out of Five stars (see what I did there?)
Eric J. Guignard is MCM’s horror genre correspondent, and writes dark and speculative fiction from his office in Los Angeles. His stories and articles may be found in magazines, journals, anthologies, and any other media that will print him. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society, and is also the Horror Genre Correspondent for Men’s Confidence Magazine. In addition, he’s an anthology editor, including: Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations (2012, Dark Moon Books), which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award®, and this year’s critically acclaimed release, After Death… (2013, Dark Moon Books). Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (2013, JournalStone Publishing), and watch for many more forthcoming books. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, or at his blog: www.ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericjguignard.