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January: Traditional/classic Gothic works:
Frankenstein, 1818 version
Interview with the Vampire
The Merciful Women
Under the Dome
March: Victorian Gothic:
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other stories (Vintage Classics)
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Sweeney Todd or The String of Pearls
April: Graphic novels & short stories:
Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror: Spine-Tingling Spooktacular
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Fun-filled Frightfest
Swamp Thing: Saga of the Swamp Thing
Saga Of The Swamp Thing: Book Two
Swamp Thing: The Curse
Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book Four
May: Women & non-English:
White is for Witching
The Yellow Wallpaper
June: Gothic Pulp & weird fiction:
The House on the Borderland
H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus 3: The Haunter of the Dark and Other Tales
July: Hauntings/ghost stories:
The Little Stranger
The Woman in Black
The Ghost Hunters
September: Southern Gothic:
The Man in the Moss
December: Contemporary/modern Gothic:
The Town that Forgot How to Breathe
* Perfume by Patrick Süskind (the movie was great!) - This is more mystery/thriller, but maybe it could fit in your foreign section?
* Handling the Undead, Let the Right One In, or anything else by John Ajvide Lindqvist (another great movie, both the original and remake)
* I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (Yrsa is also female, so maybe you could double points for this one ;)
* The Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi
>9 saraslibrary: Nope, no better luck, Sara, which is a shame.
Thoughts on The Monk...
First scene with Leonella, Antonia, Lorenzo and friend listening to Ambrosio's sermon:
- Is this supposed to be tongue-in-cheek or satire? Leonella as a character is a scream and the dialogue is pretty funny. Was the novel ever performed on stage?
Rosario/Matilda revealed to Ambrosio:
- Overwrought and slightly ridiculous, a little too dragged out, and comes across as gay fantasy - even despite knowing Lewis was homosexual, it seemed to be leading up to a young man declaring his love for the Monk, and the twist may have been the only way you could get away with this sort of thing in print.
- Ambrosio thinking Matilda's face must be very beautiful once he'd seen her 'beauteous orb' made me laugh.
- LOVED the 'cientipedoro'; a great name for a creepy critter.
- Already getting the melodrama and histrionics of the Gothic. Is the novel set in Spain because Latin types are stereotypically passionate and hysterical, or because it was satirising Catholicism in particular, or both?
Adventures of Raymond de las Cisternas:
- A lot of unlikely but convenient events and people bumping into each other randomly, which seems a bit silly - is this typical for a Gothic novel? Getting a bit confused with the different names and relationships, not helped by convoluted language at times.
- The bandit attack was more gruesome and bloody than I'd expected. For some reason I thought a book of this age would be more restrained.
- A fomer monk as a bandit? Another dig at the Church?
- Thought Donna Rodolpha's misunderstanding of Raymond's intentions was funny as a second example of the desperate older woman.
- I liked the use of folk tales, such as The Bleeding Nun and The Wandering Jew, neither of which I'd heard of before. My mum had a houseplant (latin name Tradescantia) which had the common name 'Wandering Jew', though I don't hear it called that nowadays. The appearance of The Bleeding Nun was a genuinely scary scene.
- Theodore strikes me as another bit of disguised gay fantasy, devoted to Raymond, attending to and singing for him. Am I reading too much into this? Is this typical of the younger male companion in Gothic books?
- Cunegonda on the cherry brandy - another funny older woman. These older women are very camp and amusing, almost like pantomime ugly sisters. Is this typical?
Once I got over the language and the confusion over the characters, I found the story so far to be melodramatic, camp and gruesome by turns, which surprised me as I had expected the Gothic novel to be more dark, brooding and menacing in atmosphere. The plot is entertaining with a lot going on and this would have made a thrilling serial.
Back to Ambrosio and Matilda:
- After over 100 pages of background story, as told by Raymond (which means readers are once or sometimes twice removed from the action, as he relates his own story and that of others), the story now feels more immediate and I'm more aware of how racy the material is. Think it was very clever of Lewis to cut off as Ambrosio and Matilda give in to their desires, quite early on in the book, before returning after a long digression.
Antonia, Leonella and Elvira receiving Lorenzo, and Elvira getting sick:
- Must be getting in to the spirit of the book; I'm moved by Antonia’s awkwardness in front of her mother regarding her feelings for Lorenzo, and incensed by the Prioress’ treatment of Lorenzo and Agnes when he tries to find out what has happened to her.
- Leonella still a funny character but is more than that, what with being loyal and the first to see right through Ambrosio. I like how she is described as having a 'communicative disposition', and forgets Christoval the minute she gets attention from another man!
- Charmed by Elvira's teasing of her daughter from her sickbed -
"Stay, Stay! Now I recollect how it was. He was put into the Abbey quite a Child; The common People say that He fell from heaven, and was sent as a present to the Capuchins by the Virgin."
"That was very kind of her. And so He fell from heaven, Antonia? He must have had a terrible tumble."
- Elvira appearing to Antonia was very creepy - Lewis does great ghost scenes.
- Jacintha is yet another hysterically funny older woman; it was amusing how she wanted to marry and move in with a man to escape her haunted house and declared "There is Simon Gonzalez will have me any day of the week, and if I live till daybreak, I will marry him out of hand". Even funnier that he turned her down!
The Festival of St. Clare to the end of the book:
- I have a feeling I know who Ambrosio is and that there is more to come about the fate of Agnes, but Matilda is a puzzle. Her only motive can be as a woman scorned, but I don't get the black magic. There's more to come, methinks.
- Death of the Prioress is extremely gruesome, really nasty.
- The only off note in the whole ending - why on Earth would one of the nuns hiding in the crypt just happen to have rosewater on her to soothe Agnes?
- The rape of Antonia was pretty bad.
- The loss of Agnes’ baby, and her holding on to its little body, was heartbreaking.
- Found Ambrosio’s terror at the prospect of a second round of torture very convincing, being frozen and insensible with fear. Despite his actions, it was a horrible way to end up.
- ‘Sable wings’ – as in sable fur?
- Ambrosio’s parentage and Agnes’ fate were expected but the Devil was not, and neither was Matilda being ‘a subordinate but crafty spirit’. Not sure what I expected but the ending was thrilling, dramatic and horrific. Very effective the way Lewis tied up Agnes and Lorenzo’s stories before Ambrosio’s, leaving the reader with the full force of the ending.
Thoughts on some of the quoted texts:
- The excerpt of the The Grave by Robert Blair was very appropriate and atmospheric. It’s apparently an example of ‘graveyard poetry’ which could have been an earlier sub-genre of our HorrorKIT. The Grave was illustrated by William Blake and I found a free online version with illustrations which I’m sure I’ll enjoy.
- ‘Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine’ is a fantastic fun and gruesome little poem, reminded me of Tim Burton in its macabre playfulness. Appears on Tales of Wonder (thanks Lyzard for this).
From what I remember about our class discussions, there wasn't so much talk of the Church being satirized as actually out-and-out villainized by Lewis, which rather goes with the times of the novel, on some level. I just love how utterly crazy it is--it makes the gothic melodrama more bearable :)
Oh yes, it quickly goes from satirizing the Church to vilifying it, and beyond! You did a horror literature class? Sounds fascinating - which other books did you cover?
- Introduction to 1831 version mentions a discussion about Dr. Darwin animating 'vermicelli'. A wiki search explains that Erasmus Darwin's experiment involved 'Vorticellae', a ciliate protozoan (a single-celled organism bearing hair-like structures). I like the idea of this very sophisticated group (Byron, the Shelleys, and Polidori) getting their facts wrong and earnestly discussing the idea that Darwin brought a piece of pasta to life!
- I thought the quote (at the beginning) from Paradise Lost was extremely apt.
- I liked the glimpse of the creature before Victor's story starts; it suggested more action than I ultimately got from the book.
- I enjoyed the fact that Victor was rescued by a ship hoping to navigate the Northwest Passage, especially after last year's reading of The Terror; another quest for discovery of that era.
- Didn't realise that the creation happened so early in the novel, or that Victor is only a student. He comes across very naive and studenty too. His single-mindedness and workaholism is very realistic; not taking a break while working with death and body parts - no wonder he cracks up and can't cope with what he's done.
- The creature peeping at Victor while he's in bed was probably the strongest image of the book for me, because it is scary but upsetting - Victor runs away so quickly you have no idea of the creature's intentions. And the creature's struggle to make any sound is disturbing and sad. It is an abandonment.
- Victor's breakdown is very realistically written too. I found Shelley to be very good at describing Victor's poor mental health from this point onward.
- The creature's explanation as to how he learned to talk and read is too far-fetched and almost ruins the book.
- It struck me that the speed with which the creature can run makes him the grandfather of the modern zombie!
- I found the creature very hard to picture, as I had an image of Boris Karloff in my head. That was until he first grinned...
- Victor destroying the half-assembled second creature and disposing of the remains is fairly gruesome for what is quite a restrained horror.
- The book is a tragedy and morality tale but the horror comes from the ideas and moral dilemmas. The question of responsibility, what kind of creator man will ultimately be (responsible? benign? absent? neglectful? forgiving? vengeful?), and whether we have a duty to what we create or what came before, are more relevant than ever. It also seemed that with Victor being so naive but unable to take responsibility for his creation, and in his fears, depression and thoughts of revenge, he had created a being in his own image, so was even more culpable, but in the end both were to be pitied.
So I wouldn't say I was trying to 'dissect Frankenstein', although someone has already pulled me up for 'getting into the spirit of The Monk' :D
... and if I accidentally say anything about 'getting my teeth into Interview with the Vampire', I'm going to have a word with my myself....
LOL @ all the puns. Let's just hope you don't get too carried away with October's slasher/thriller theme. ;) (Sorry, I couldn't think of good pun for October. It's the end of the day, and my brain's pretty fried.)
- An easy read, average writing and weak characterisation, exposition-heavy dialogue, but an interesting, fast-moving plot with lots of suspense and scary scenes.
- The opening, with the mystery of the broken-down plane, was clever, suspenseful, and played on current fears of terrorism (as did the World Trade Centre site as a home for the vampires).
- The homecoming of the dead from the aircraft, and the creepy scenes of vampires in domestic settings, was scary in a Salem's Lot way.
- The idea of a vampire preying on the sick and dying in a concentration camp was horrifying, convincing and effective.
- The Master/Sardu was truly horrible and harked back to the Nosferatu type of vampire.
- Vampire stories can succeed or fail on the way they draw on previous vampire lore and stories. I thought that side of this novel worked very well - the white blood, the blood worms, the pathology, the story of Jusef Sardu, Setrakian's knowledge.
- Setrakian was a wonderful modern spin on the character of Abraham Van Helsing.
- I was disappointed with the revelation that this was all the action of a renegade ancient vampire, and an act of war against his kind. There's been a lot of this in vampire and werewolf fiction over recent years and I did think 'not again'!
- The rock-star character was terrible! The only reason to include a badly-written cross between Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson seemed to be the house he was converting, which provided a suitably Gothic base for The Master in modern-day New York. Utterly ridiculous.
- Eldritch Palmer was pretty ridiculous too - such a pulp horror character, reminded me of a watered-down Mason Verger from Hannibal.
- The ending leaves plenty of loose ends for the sequel.
I couldn't recommend this for the quality of the writing, but would I recommend it as a horror? Oh yes! I'd give it a solid three stars.
- Was impressed with the way the beginning got straight to it; a young man alone in a room, interviewing a vampire. Gave an immediate sense of unease.
- Louis' story was told in a languid way that captured a feeling of a vampire having all the time in the world, which he has. Only problem is he really only had a night as he would have had to get away before the sun came up; in that sense the book was too long and the pace too leisurely.
- The writing was lush, sensual and evocative, but excessively 'purple' a lot of the time, and as the book went on the writing and the pace became a drag. I got it - the boredom and dissatisfaction of life as a vampire, the angst, the soul-searching - but it went on for way too long, eventually ruining the book for me.
- I only once found the book scary, but when the horror does come it is sickening. Fields of dead slaves as the plantation burns; Lestat dancing with the mother's corpse, black ichor running out of her mouth; tucking the dead whores and the slave in bed before climbing into their coffins - it was repellent, and as if death was all around and all-consuming. Very effective horror, but wore off as the story trudged along.
- I did not enjoy the paedophilic tone to Louis' and Lestat's relationship with Claudia. It was unexpected and stomach-churning. Claudia is a lot younger in the book than she appears in the film. On the one hand it was fully compatible with the idea of vampires being immoral and 'other'; on the other hand it became more distasteful as the book went on (and on and on), to the point where their dysfunctional relationship was boring and it was almost easy to forget that Claudia was so young. If that wasn't enough there was Armand's kept, shared human boy. Yuk.
- The quote on the front of my copy was from Sting (of the tantric sex sessions):
"One of the most wonderful, erotic, sensual books ever written".
Eh? Erotic for whom?
- It was good, as a vampire fan, to be back in the Carpathians in part 2, and I really did enjoy this portion of the book, but it went nowhere and served absolutely no purpose. And it was different in tone to parts 1 and 3, so stuck out like a sore thumb.
- Part 3 was a complete drag to get through but provided the only scare. It was when Louis noticed the white hand that emerged from the costume in the Théâtre des Vampires - a chill ran down my spine when I read that!
- Liked the way it ended but by then I was glad it was all over.
Original horror reading bingo card
I may have to fit in more horror reads to complete it...
(I may also play around the opacity of the coffins - if I have the patience).
As for my bingo/coffins: it's not imagination, more procrastination! I had some work done on the flat last week and now have to clear up and decorate, which I'm putting off. Playing around with GIMP suddenly seemed really interesting...
Either way, I still like your coffins! :) I know how that goes about procrastinating after having work done on your place. I had my windows done in my room a few days ago, and I haven't moved all my stuff back against the walls. *shrugs* I actually had to look up what GIMP meant, because I thought maybe it was your pet term for your S.O. :D
- Loved the referencing of recent reads of mine. I started Tales of Mystery and Imagination because it also references The Gold Bug, which I read yonks ago but don't remember very well. Also referenced Frankenstein and mentioned The Monk. It was a lovely tying-together of my January and March horror reads and in that I was very spoiled - I couldn't have picked a better book.
- Knew there was a sexual theme but forgot how much it was mentioned - not that it bothered me.
- There's a ludicrousness that I enjoyed; all of the characters are ridiculous and unlikeable, and Annette's story is totally unbelievable, but it all works because it is consistently ironic and tongue-in-cheek.
- It's a short book and is just the right length to tell its story and make its point.
That horror class was a lot of fun. I actually did it as an independent study as a grad. student; I sat in on the professor's undergraduate class, and read those books, along with some other books we picked out together to read in comparison to the other works, with my interests a little bit more in mind. (I ended up doing a paper on bad houses in literature, so that's how we chose most of our independent works.)
Of those I remember...
The survey class covered: The Monk, some tales by Sheridan Le Fanu, some tales by Poe and Lovecraft both (of course!), The House on the Borderland, The Shining, Interview with the Vampire, Ghost Story, The Haunting of Hill House, and Dracula.
Separately, we covered: Black House, The Other, Duma Key, some other Poe and Lovecraft stories (of course!) and the rest of In a Glass Darkly, The Between, The Town That Forgot How to Breathe, and House of Leaves. Incidentally, we were originally supposed to cover Lost Boy, Lost Girl instead of Black House, but changed them out when we realized my so-called studies were moving toward Bad Houses :)
In any case, I hope these provide some ideas for further reading :) The other horror that I HIGHLY recommend that few people ever hear of is The Sound o Building Coffins--that one will forever remain one of my favorites :)
Bad houses in literature sounds very much my sort of thing. You can't beat a bad or haunted house in my opinion. I also like any films with similar themes, even the campy ones like House on Haunted Hill.
The Sound of Building Coffins sounds very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation :)
Not one of King's classics but more readable than some - Firestarter and Needful Things come to mind. Despite some silly plot turns, it was hard to leave the book alone.
Speaking of Firestarter - is it just me or does King end a lot of his books with an enormous explosion or fire of some kind? In that sense it was a very lazy way to end.
Speaking of silliness - some of the nastier attacks in the book struck me as inadvertently funny (Junior being offended by Angie's 'Chiclet teeth'; Thurston Marshal getting a kick up the butt), and Rennie was so cotton-picking evil he was hysterical. The whole leatherhead thing was ridiculous, and the ending was too abrupt.
In tone it reminded me of Thinner, which also was an average story with some really outrageous characters and plot lines. Both books were very entertaining, I thought.
I loved the explanation from Stephen King himself, at the end of the book, where he says that the original idea has been knocking around since the 70s. Just in case you thought he'd ripped off the plot from The Simpson's Movie ;)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (5 stars) -
- Didn't realise this was written more as a mystery with the reveal at the end, which was a pleasant surprise but meant that I already knew the identity of Mr Hyde. Despite this it was a page-turner that kept me in a certain amount of suspense.
- Was very impressed with story-telling abilities of Stevenson.
- The idea was interesting (the dual nature of man; the danger of giving in to one's baser urges; the hypocrisy of wanting to live one way while maintaining the opposite image) and I can see why it stands as a horror classic.
- The last sight of Hyde alive, running around like a masked monkey, was odd and sent a shiver down my spine.
- I thought, as a novella, it was just the right length.
The Body Snatcher (4 stars) -
- Well written, entertaining, but not at all scary; in fact I found the end image blackly funny - the two men jumping off the carriage in fright while the horse took off with the corpse! Served them right.
A Lodging for the Night (3 stars) -
- Not a horror as such although there was a murder.
- I liked the writing and thought this was different and very readable; again, I was impressed with the story-telling.
Markheim (2 stars) -
- Different in style to the other stories; came across more as a writing exercise I thought, and not a wholly successful one.
Thrawn Janet (5 stars) -
- This was really scary, a good old-fashioned Victorian horror story. The image of Janet - both her appearance after denouncing the Devil, and the following of her employer at the end - were hair-raising.
- I loved the Scottish dialect.
The Misadventures of John Nicholson (3 stars) -
- Amusing story of John, a bit of a dope and a coward.
- A novella more than a short story.
- As it ends over Christmas I thought it would make a pleasant accompaniment to A Christmas Carol.
The Gold Bug (5 stars) -
- Great fun, loved the puzzle solving and the characters. Yes, Jupiter could be seen as a racist depiction by today's standards, but ignoring that I thought Jupiter and Legrand came across as two rather eccentric older men living together in reduced circumstances, and Poe's comic dialogue worked quite well, even if the dialect didn't.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (3 stars)
MS Found in a Bottle (2 stars)
A Descent into the Maelstrom (1 star)
The Murders in the Rue Morgue (5 stars) -
- Brilliant! Gruesome and mysterious, I got a chill down my spine as Dupin led the narrator through the solution and realised who the killer was (you'd think I'd have remembered from the version in The Books of Blood but I assumed it was a weird idea of Clive Barker's). All the more impressive when I realised the Dupin stories were the first detective stories and closed room mysteries.
The Mystery of Marie Roget (1 star) -
- Merely an exercise in analysis, and so convoluted it was almost unreadable.
The Purloined Letter (3 stars)
The Fall of the House of Usher (4 stars) -
- All the stereoptypical Gothic trappings (I'm a sucker for an old, crumbling castle), but too crude in its symbolism.
The Pit and the Pendulum (4 stars) -
- I read this as the protagonist's terror causing an extreme delusion, and that his sudden and unlikely rescue was his mental release at the point of death. Thought that was very clever but it seems the tale is read literally by just about everybody but me! Not that it ruined my enjoyment as my interpretation works for me.
The Premature Burial (2 stars)
The Black Cat (5 stars) -
- Darkly funny if you have an overly affectionate/needy/clingy cat (one of my cats has his moments and I could relate)! The owner may have blamed the cat but he brought it all on himself. Very amusing.
The Masque of the Red Death (5 stars) -
- Highly artificial, theatrical and stylised, this was more like choreography than a short story. I adored it.
The Cask of Amontillado (5 stars) -
- Delightfully nasty little tale, full of spite and venom and very dark.
The Oval Portrait (2 stars)
The Oblong Box (2 stars)
The Tell-Tale Heart (5 stars) -
- Gripping from the off, and I loved how revealing it was that the man was more concerned with defending his own sanity than his innocence.
Ligeia (2 star)
Loss of Breath (1 star) -
- Could see how this was meant to be amusing but a lot of the jokes were obvious and juvenile and I wasn't impressed how it began making fun of the protagonist's abuse of his wife. Doesn't mean it was being condoned but it made too light of it. Compare with The Black Cat, where the husband is violent but gets his comeuppance.
Shadow- A Parable (5 stars) -
- I really liked the ancient Greek setting, and the way the themes of fear of death in the face of disaster, and the grief for those lost, were portrayed in such a short but weird tale.
Silence - A Fable (2 stars) -
The Man in the Crowd (5 stars) -
- Eerie and offbeat, in a Twilight Zone sort of way. Very interesting.
Some Words with the Mummy (3 stars)
Even some of the 2 and 3 star stuff that I didn't comment on had a lush and eerie quality that I enjoyed. I think Poe, when he is on the money, is astounding, but is boring and hard work at his worst. I was surprised by the way alcoholism and domestic violence cropped up in his more modern stories, I didn't expect it at all, but I admired him for it as he didn't always hide behind the Gothic to write about dark subjects. I will at some point treat myself to an illustrated version (by Harry Clarke, of course!) - despite the bad stuff, I really like his work, but I think it's better savoured occasionally than slogged through all in one go.
- It starts off immediately with a disappearance at Todd's shop, and with this attracting attention, mostly because the victim's dog won't leave the shop. I liked that it is set up as a mystery to be solved straight away, and although anyone familiar with the story knows what's happening to the victims, it's intriguing to see the mystery unfold.
- There was plenty of foreshadowing throughout; Victorian readers would have been suspicious of the pies from the amount of descriptions of their delicious gravy and tender meat. As a modern reader I couldn't help but cringe every time someone ate a pie, and I'm so grateful I don't eat meat.
- Some of it was funny, like the chapter with Lupin coming to tea.
- Todd was terrifying. For anyone who's had an interest in serial killers, he seems plausible. The way he treats Toby makes you fear for the boy constantly, and his ability to react coolly to circumstances, but to turn on his fury when no-one is watching, makes him a convincing villain. He really is horrible enough to commit such awful crimes.
- I know all the London locations, and I liked the descriptions, which gave a sense of the older London, much less built up than it is today. Ancestors of mine lived in some of the locations: watchmakers based in and around Fore Street; costermongers who grew up round the Strand area, one possibly in the workhouse, and later lived near Clare Market, which doesn't exist any more but was mentioned. Peckham Rye's changed the most, and couldn't be further from its depiction in the book.
- It's easy to see how the story of Sweeney Todd has become famous, and I can imagine how thrilling it would have been to have read the story when it was printed. It was released as a serial, and I bet people couldn't wait to get their hands on each installment. I can imagine it caused quite a stir, especially as the 'penny dreadfuls' were aimed at working class adolescents. I can imagine myself at that age talking excitedly about the story with friends - teenagers love anything outrageous.
I'd happily give this 4 stars.
- Same pop-culture references as the tv version (I'm sure I missed plenty)!
- Different writers and illustrators tackle each horror story. This was one of the most enjoyable and refreshing aspects - the animation in the tv series always has the same look. As far as I'm aware, the stories in the graphic novels are not the same as the stories featured in the tv episodes.
- 'Apu on Rigel 7' had the best illustration.
- Recognised Sergio Aragones' work immediately (I used to read Groo the Wanderer as a teen); he illustrated 'Xt'tapalatakettle's Day' which was very amusing.
- I liked the Carrie homage 'Dark Lisa'.
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Fun-Filled Frightfest:
- Both 'Homer Erectus' and 'From Duff till Dawn' had the best artwork.
- 'In Springfield No-one Can Hear You Scream' was the strongest story and probably the nearest a Simpson story will get to horror.
- 'Hell-o-Ween' was the funniest story.
- More variety in the artwork in this volume, and stronger stories.
Loved the Rigelian ads (for tv programmes in one, and self-help books in the other), also the dedications to Snowball the cat. The double-page Simpson spreads were filler really, but okay. Overall these are more amusing than scary, as you would expect, but there are a lot of references that will please any horror fan. I'll definitely pick up the other volumes based on these.
- Was only 10 when this came out!
Preferred Alan Moore's introduction to Ramsey Campbell's - it's also very useful for anyone who is new to the series at this point as it gives a brief account of the background.
- As a child I loved the biological details (the planarian worms of 'The Anatomy Lesson'; the oxygenating properties of plants in The Floronic Man storyline). Yes I was a bit of a nerd :)
- Still think the reinvention of Swamp Thing is amazingly clever.
- The dream sequence where Swamp Thing mourns his lost humanity is haunting.
- Facial expressions capture broad array of both humanity and horror (terror, shock, grief, joy, confusion).
- The Monkey King terrorizing vulnerable children was scary and disturbing, but it was extrememly touching how the little boy overcame his fear to defeat him.
- Page 21 of 'The Sleep of Reason': is that John Constantine behind Abby?
- Matt Cable's fantasies and demise were particularly disgusting and sordid, and this was depicted very well in both the writing and the illustrations.
- The forward by Neil Gaiman was enjoyable, and well worth a read.
- The 'Arcane Trilogy' crosses all sorts of boundaries, is full of depravity, and the artwork is particularly scary. The 'Love and Death' double-page spread, where Abby lies traumatised on the floor after trying to scrub the smell of insects off her skin with a wire brush, is harrowing.
- the Annual, which follows the trilogy, features a depiction of Hell worthy of Heironymus Bosch.
- 'Pog' is both endearingly cute and heartbreakingly sad, which is quite an achievement for a cautionary tale about Man's relationship with the Earth and its other inhabitants - it could have been patronising and preachy, but instead it gave me a lump in my throat.
- 'Abandoned Houses' has a creepy, retro E. C. Comics vibe and tied in nicely as a bit of foreshadowing of things to come.
- 'Rites of Spring' has some of the most stunning, mind-blowing, hallucinogenic artwork I've come across in a comic, and the story was beautiful.
This differed a lot from the first volume in that the artwork and stories varied more. There was a lot of tying together of threads from the past and preparation for the big story lines to come, with Swamp Thing continuing to learn more about his capabilities in light of his new knowledge.
- 'The Nukeface Papers' scared me more as a kid that it does now, but fear of anything nuclear was much bigger in the 80's. Still, Nukeface himself is just horrible and tragic and looks a mess, and the story is very good.
- 'Growth Patterns' is another step in the evolution of Swamp Thing, but introduces the small group of characters led by Constantine, plus the Invunche - freaky! Thanks to Neil Gaiman in the foreward to either volume 2 or 4 I now know that the Invunche is a figure from Chilean mythology, which doesn't lessen its awfulness.
- Just in case the Invunche wasn't scary enough, this story is followed by a two-parter about vampires. Now this terrified me witless as a young teenand I still find it hard to read at night now. The mama vampire as a bloated, immobile passive carrier of eggs is truly disgusting and the fate of Nicky, a teenage boy who goes swimming in the vampire's territory, is probably the bit I found scariest. His friends leaving him floating in the water, drained of blood, and his subsequent attack on his friend and the parents, chilled me to the bone.
- The werewolf story was poignant and very well done, and although feminist takes on the werewolf myth are not unusual, the tying in with Indian traditions concerning menstruation gave it more depth than some others.
- The zombie storyline, while not the scariest, certainly had its moments. I enjoyed the voodoo/slavery theme, which was very fitting with the whole 'American Gothic' theme.
Overall I loved how Alan Moore brought together horror archetypes and American traditions, myths and history, and the way this was done in each individual story, as well as being relevant of the broader plot. Comics had done horror before this but this was really clever.
- Continuation of the 'American Gothic' stories, with one of my favourite covers, Swamp Thing against the Stars and Stripes, and stories that focus on the phenomenon of the serial killer, and America's relationship with guns.
- 'Windfall' really touched me in its depiction of a young couple dealing with terminal illness. It's only part of the story but it's beautiful. I liked Chester as a character and if I remember correctly he went on to have a place in other Swamp Thing story lines.
- 'Bogeyman' was a decent story of a serial killer, and the expressions in the eyes of the victims were especially impressive.
- The gun story is set in a fictional version of The Winchester House, which I'd never heard of until I read this years ago. I'm impressed as always by the amount of material Alan Moore draws on as inspiration and background for his stories. This, while not the scariest, is one of my favourite 'American Gothic' stories.
- The nature of the horror changes after these stories, to become bigger in scope and more akin the H. P. Lovecraft's cosmic horror.
- The Invunche appears again and is even more scary. Being lost and attacked on the London Tube late at night is something I can imagine, being so familiar with it (the Tube, not being attacked on it!). It's the way the thing jumps out at people or runs at them! Horrific. The creation of the Invunche by the South American cult is terrible but their transformation of Judith into a crow is just about the most sickening thing I've read - both as a teen and an adult. It made enough of an impression on Neil Gaiman for him to mention it in his forward to this edition, and I agree with him. As an idea and as a mental image (you don't even see the worst of it) it has stayed with more than anything else in the series.
- The final showdown between good and evil was hugely clever. For a year of two before, there had been a story line called 'Crisis on Infinite Earths', which had both its own comic series but was featured in most if not all of the DC Comics titles. It is a testament to Alan Moore and the various artists working with him that the climax of the Crisis saga was tied into the Swamp Thing series. It's all very well explained and makes complete sense, but it was such a fantastic build up and ending that I found the series anti-climactic after that and very quickly stopped reading it, which is a shame as I'm sure I missed out on so much.
In short, I loved the volume for its apocalyptic vision. Finally reading these four volumes back to back has given me a greater appreciation than I had before, and that's saying something, and I very much want to read the volumes that come before and after.
- Very dark, depressing indictment on women's liberation and freedoms in modern Japan, if not all modern societies.
- Teaching girls to excel in a world run by men only leads to disappointment and delusion. As they are not able to compete with men, from a young age they turn on each other, despising their mothers for their submission and hating the different methods they use to get along and survive. The inequality between the sexes also leads to sexualisation of girls and women - teens with their Lolita-like uniforms, for example - or the complete rejection of men, and therefore loneliness and breakdown.
- Shows how competitive, hierarchical societies increase the pressure on individuals to succeed. Made me think of some of the principles in ecological and evolutionary biology - increased selection pressure can benefit mutations, leading to their growth in the population. An example is Yuriko's unusual beauty - she's seen as a freak but as someone says, with more models appearing with those kind of looks, she would have found her niche if she'd been born later. Aggression in individuals also increases if there is increased competition in the same species for the same resources. These ideas were touched on by the biology professor.
- All of the narrators are unreliable and all proclaim victim-hood, if not complete innocence, while depicting almost everyone else as despicable - although in some cases putting a person in their lives on a pedestal. As the main narrator is the conduit of everyone's stories, it is ultimately her reliability and sanity in question. The last few pages underline this. It seems she has literally been sent over the edge by her bitterness and hate and loneliness.
- The way Yuriko is treated by men in her early life is horrible. The fact that she accepts it and knows no better, purely on the basis of how everyone reacts to her beauty, is very sad. It is as if she has been born to be desired and used by men - or only until she loses her looks and youth.
- Yuriko's older sister, the main narrator, is bitter about being known only as Yuriko's older sister. Although her name is mentioned I only remember her as the older sister. Her bitterness and constant complaining simply reinforce that this is all she will ever be. It is also ironic, for someone who despises other women relying on men, that her only happy memory is living with her grandfather and his bonsai trees, before another woman took him away from her.
- The grandfather comes across as the most balanced person in the book, even though he is a con-man. He lives a simple life, knows what he is, has repented (up to a point - a parole officer keeps an eye on him), and doesn't judge others. He comes across as having a very 'live and let live' attitude.
- Zhang, the Chinese immigrant, has ended up just as twisted and vicious, both perpetrator and victim, coming from a society with extreme poverty but the belief that you can make it if you try hard enough. The parallels between him and the Japanese women seem to be the damage caused by the belief that you can be equal to those above you in an unfair, unequal society. Believing this is tantamount to a delusion, and with delusion comes madness, immorality and callousness.
- This read like a dystopia, but what is scary is that this is our present. It is a very pessimistic book.
Purity (5 stars) - Featuring a cast of crazies and weird experiments, this managed to be utterly lunatic but convincing - but only just. Great opening story.
The Town Manager (2 stars) - Very 'Twilight Zone', ending a bit predictable.
Sideshow and Other Stories (4 stars) - The framing story of two men who meet in a late night diner was satisfyingly intriguing because it wasn't expanded upon. The short, short stories were all interesting, but one image in particular (the head and neck inching its way across the floor in the stairwell) was freaky.
The Clown Puppet (5 stars) - The way the puppet appeared, out of nowhere, made me feel as if anything might happen next and was very scary, more in terms of mood and tension that what was actually happening. Frightening.
The Red Tower (4 stars) - Far-fetched tale of supernatural factory, but I was sucked in by the eerie haunted house vibe.
I loved these stories of total madness. The endings were so abrupt that my imagination had no choice but to run away with itself. There was nothing in the way of rational explanation, and these stories were both immersive and unnerving.
My Case for Retributive Action (4 stars) - I loved the strangeness of the work environment, and the way the Quine organisation both medicated people and found them work placements; the whole set up made me think of the Government's 'Back to Work' scheme! The story took a much stranger and darker turn than I would have expected which was sort of Lynchian but not wholly successful.
Our Temporary Supervisor (3 stars) - Another workplace horror, really strange but without that sense of skewedness of the other stories.
In a Foreign Town, a Foreign Land (5 stars) - Constant references to the same few places without any reference to the real or outside world gave a creepy sense of deja vu one gets when having recurring dreams of the same or similar places. The mysterious Quine organisation was most intriguing. I was particularly creeped out by the rival boarding house keepers - the story of one reducing tenants to puppets (sort of), and the glimpse of the hand of the other (just the hand!) cutting down a hanged man during a nightmarish carnival.
These were the most dreamlike stories of the book. They also made references to the same people and places, building up a weird sense of deja vu, layer upon layer. This is what it would be like if a person's inner dream world was real, and one night they never woke up...
The Damaged and The Distressed
Teatro Grottesco (4 stars) - I liked the word-of-mouth spreading of gossip and rumour about the Teatro, but I was most struck by the image and idea of the black stars in the globe, especially what these stars were and the way they were dropped into the globe once captured. You'd really have to read the story to see what I mean; no explanation by me would do it justice.
Gas Station Carnivals (5 stars) - I love the title. The story itself was one of the best too; I loved the setting of the Crimson Club (a small town gentleman's club) and the story of the gas station carnivals, but the showman that appeared with his back turned frightened the living daylights out of me. It really was like something out of my childhood nightmares.
The Bungalow House (4 stars) - Like the story before, the person telling the tale finds out he's ascribed his own actions to someone else. I thought this was a bit obvious twice in a row but I was fascinated by the shabby art gallery and the art installation that described run down locations. I thought these were very much like something out of a David Lynch film.
Severini (3 stars) - Like the others, a split or fractured personality story. Not as strong as the others.
The Shadow, The Darkness (5 stars) - A struggling artist, with the help of a gastrointestinal condition and a weird, dilapidated hospital, finds his muse and takes his fellow artists on a trip of discovery to share his secret. This trip consists of a visit to an old diner serving stale food in a deserted town. Then they all come down with stomach pains... a strong ending to the book.
This section seemed to focus on a small community of artists, none of them successful and most (if not all) probably mad. Rumour, gossip and conspiracy theories abound, plus themes of 'art as madness', 'madness as inspiration'. I really did like the idea of weird art being produced in a very small, eccentric community.
None of the above does the book justice. It really is like a waking dream or nightmare. The repetitive way the stories are written is like listening to someone describe a fast-fading dream, but this repetition made my mind drift if I was distracted or tired. And while there are many instances of the fantastic appearing out of the blue in everyday life, the everyday itself was skewed and dark to begin with, almost like our own world but without any context or meaning.
I'm still deciding between 4 and 5 stars.
- Had to look up 'soucouyant' and 'psychomantium'. The first is a blood-sucking hag from Caribbean folklore, who sheds her skin nightly. The second is a room used for communicating with the dead. I liked the way Ore used the legend of the soucouyant, and Sade used Nigerian 'juju', to arm themselves against the hauntings, and thought it was creepy that Miranda, the mentally sick character, used the psychomantium as a bedroom (although it was very fitting with her grieving for her dead mother).
- I liked the haunted house as a character. This and the fairy-tale quality of the story gave an impression of seeing things through the eyes of someone seriously weakened by an eating disorder. I also enjoyed the haunting as symptom, cause or metaphor of mental illness. The different perspectives of the same story given by Miranda's twin brother, best friend and the house also mirrored Miranda losing her memory and mind, and accentuated her fragility.
- The nature of the eating disorder itself was saddening. The slow wasting away of Miranda, and the descriptions of eating things like plastic and onyx, were very dark.
- Not a horror, but there were some images worthy of a good horror: Miranda trapped forever in a wall, feasting on plaster; Miranda seeing herself ghostly white with jagged teeth; the lift opening on a new corridor, and a group of ghostly people with staring eyes appearing and coming closer; the house asking the reader towards the end "who do you believe?".
- As a book about teens, I liked the UK slang, such as 'lean' and 'gay'.
- I thought the Silver/Defresne family were quite pretentious and not the kind of people I could relate to ordinarily in a book, but they were sympathetically written and I didn't find them annoying at all.
- I wondered if the half white, half red apples were a nod to Snow White.
- Immigration and cultural identity were always present around the central story of the eating disorder and the haunting. The Kosarzadeh family were illegal immigrants relying on cash-in-hand work; Ore was Nigerian but adopted by a white couple; Tijana was a Kosovan migrant, frightened by attacks on her Kosovan friends and family and reacting coldly and violently; Sade, the Nigerian housekeeper, took food to the local immigration centre, where riots had broken out; Ore's room was filled with BNP (British National Party) leaflets. Not all of these story lines went anywhere but they were constantly present.
- The Silver/Defresne family seemed almost out-dated in contrast with this very modern cultural mix, although they were the ones who seemed to have all the advantages: the big house, the photography and food writing careers, the internships, and the blase attitudes to getting into Cambridge. They in their own way were as culturally displaced and in that way I didn't see Helen Oyeyemi making any grand statements or points about immigration as an issue, merely reflecting modern Britain as a fact of life.
- When Miranda was making a leaving present for one of the Kosarzadeh girls, I really liked the way she thought of it as giving a talisman - "an object that smelt lovely, or that felt kind to the hand; such things are little suitcases to put sad feelings in so that they can go away by themselves."
- Thought the relationship between the twins came across as ever so slightly incestuous. That could have been the House's version of events, as the House suggested that Eliot didn't go to South Africa after all and stayed in England to spy on Miranda. The House, in this respect, was a devious as those with eating disorders can be (in hiding the truth from their loved ones).
- Ore was a great character. I liked her friendship with Miranda, and I was very touched that Sade was the first person she'd met who could tell her what her name meant. This book was just as much about female identity as cultural identity, and the relationships between those women. Nowhere was this more obvious than the family history of eating disorders, with Miranda identifying strongly with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. It shows that family histories are just as important and defining as cultural histories, and are all part of a person's heritage. This was also the case with Ore and her adopted family.
- By concentrating on older teens on the cusp of going off to university or internships I thought this was a coming-of-age novel, which again often touches on finding one's own identity and destiny.
Overall I thought this was an interesting, multi-layered story about identity, growing up, mental health and hauntings, with a distinct fairy tale feel to it. I'd give it 5 stars, although apparently it's not as good as Helen Oyeyemi's debut, The Icarus Girl. Must get my hands on that one.
It's a free image manipulation software package, very similar to Photoshop.
I found the coffin image online:
and resized it (to about 190 pixels high). I just copy and paste coffins onto the bingo card whenever I want to cross off a section, using the 'move' tool once I've pasted the coffin.
- Very short, possibly too short; could easily have been longer but still managed to be scary.
- Oppressive atmosphere, what with it all taking place in one room.
- The descent into madness and the visions of women creeping along the wall and outside were extremely unnerving, and so was the ending, but the idea behind it (of being confined for minor depression) was lingering and disturbing after the story had finished.
- A very angry piece of work. Not just about the way women were treated in 'those days' (in our days too, sometimes), but for the poor treatment of the mentally ill. It's always awful when those that are seen as weaker or less competent are told how to get better or improve, rather than being listened to and supported.
- And the pathetic husband! What a strong man, fainting at the sight of his wife crawling along round the room.
A solidly scary horror tale with a strong message underneath. 5 stars.
Preface - Vernon Lee lays her cards on the table by describing ghosts as spurious, and as those who haunt certain minds. This doesn't lessen the power of the stories, which are more beautiful than scary anyway.
Amour Dure - Latin setting, history, passion and obsession are all Gothic themes, although the story felt more Latin than Germanic. Easy to believe it was all in the mind, what with the strain the young Polish historian was under, worrying about impressing his peers in Germany. More like an old-fashioned ghost story than the others in the collection; the haunted church was eerie, and the touch of the corpses arm feeling like wet clay was icky.
Dionea - I loved the mythological elements to the story. It was even more beautifully told than the previous story, and less Gothic. A stand-out passage summed this up for me:
"From the mysterious greyness, the olive groves and lanes beneath my terrace, rises a confused quaver of frogs, and buzz and whirr of insects: something, in sound, like the vague trails of countless stars, the galaxies on galaxies blurred into mere blue shimmer by the moon, which rides slowly across the highest heaven."
Oke of Okehurst - The least beautiful of the four. Poe-like with its ancestral house and murderous family legend, , James-like with its psychology of relationships. A good, strong story.
A Wicked Voice - Probably the strangest and most ethereal of the four. Very evocative, with the humid, claustrophobic waterways and buildings of old Venice, and sunshine and dry heat of rural Italy. A maddeningly beautiful singing voice from the past is an unusual haunting but it is a gorgeous story, and probably my favourite of the four in terms of mood and atmosphere.
- The framing story was interesting and well written. The sense of desolation at the site of the fallen house was very strong. Hard to believe that rural Ireland was that undeveloped in those days; I did wonder if it was a particularly accurate or racist depiction.
- The story (as told in the old man's book) got straight down to the weirdness, with his strange vision of a trip through the cosmos. Surprisingly enjoyable, considering I wouldn't like this sort of far-fetched science fiction scene.
- The old man was pretty tough for his age, what with the rock climbing!
- The old house, too big for the man, his sister and his dog, isolated in the countryside and sitting on top of a large pit, was very creepy. Hodgson does eerie locations very well.
- The attack of the pig-men was dramatic and suspenseful, and the lack of explanation regarding their origins or motives added to the mood. Rushing out of the ground to attack the house, they came across as other-worldly and mysterious.
- Hodgson isn't the best writer; he's very descriptive and manages to conjure mood and suspense very well, but in a clumsy way. I do like the way he puts things sometimes, such using the word 'splud' to describe a bullet hitting one of the pig-men.
- Is it all in the mind? The sister certainly seemed to think so!
- A large part of the book is made up of another cosmic journey that is very similar to the 'Stargate' section in '2001: A Space Odyssey' (I'm not the only one to make the comparison). It's just as mind-blowing, for the reader as well as the old man, and I found it just as gut wrenching as the film - the vastness of time and space, how short our lives are and how small we are, the sadness of the death of Pepper and the old man, the awful feeling of loneliness watching everything around you, and beyond, coming to an end.
- H. P. Lovecraft criticises the 'sentimentality' of the story but I disagree; I thought the old man meeting his long lost love on the shore of the Sea of Sleep signified that he'd travelled to another, metaphysical, dimension, beyond our understanding of the universe. A vast period of time is even described at one point as a 'kalpa', which comes from Hinduism and Buddhism.
- My interpretation of the identical damage done to both houses was that they connected as a doorway for weak spot between dimensions, and that the old man was particularly sensitive to this; it explained why he saw the pig-men while his sister was oblivious - he was reacting to an attack going on in another dimension or parallel universe.
- I felt terribly sad for Pepper. Again, it was weird and creepy how the old man seemed to wake from his vision as if nothing had happened, but Pepper didn't. I did wonder if this was anything to do with animals not having souls, what with the metaphysical ideas of parellel universes.
- Of course it could have all been in the mind! If that was the case, who knows what happened to Pepper? That's scary in itself, considering the fate of the new dog...
- I liked the way the two campers who found the book were keen to get out of there, with the minimum of enquiries about the house and no further visit! It really came across as a place to be avoided, whether or not the old man's account was to be believed.
Ahead of its time and unnervingly strange, the only downside was the writing, which wasn't brilliant even though it was darned effective. 4 stars.
A slave talks to the captured God that he is caring for. I thought Mieville's books were more modern in setting; this could have been set during one of our ancient civilisations, although it doesn't make it clear which one, if any. I was impressed - it was an interesting story for one so short (17 pages) and was intriguing right up till the end. I'd read more of his work based on this.
The Outsider (3 stars) - Very Poe-like, one scene reminding me of The Masque of the Red Death.
The Rats in the Walls (5 stars) - Creepy build-up, shockingly grisly end! Didn't expect cannibalism from Lovecraft. Cat's name was bad but I had been warned about the racism.
Pickman's Model (4 stars) - The ending was a bit predictable but it was a scary story, with a creepy atmosphere and some suggestions of disturbing imagery (in the paintings). Racist attitudes in this one too but sort of fits with the Lovecraftian fear of anything 'foreign'.
The Call of Cthulhu (5 stars) - Brilliant. Loved the way it was written (someone going over a deceased relative's papers) which gave a sense of mystery, conspiracy theory and research. The hugeness of Cthulhu was terrifying; I was scared of the thought of anything big as a child (dinosaurs, whales, etc) but have never read anything that captures it before, ie that sense of awe and frozen fear just being in the presence of something that big, even if it hasn't yet noticed you.
The Dunwich Horror (4 stars) - The fantasy/horror elements could have been ridiculous but the story was very entertaining. Could see how Lovecraft was an influence on Stephen King in this one; in fact if you like King but have never read Lovecraft, this is a good place to start.
The Whisperer in Darkness (4 stars) - Too long and boring in places, but what a story! Akeley sitting rigidly in the dark, telling his story, was really well done. I also liked the early 'brain-in-the-jar' idea, and the ending was suitable horrible.
The Colour Out of Space (5 stars) - Excellent sci-fi horror, very well paced.
The Haunter in the Dark (4 stars) - I loved all the Lovecraftian trappings in this one. Wasn't particularly scary (apart from the image of the writer at his desk at the end) but a decent horror adventure.
The Thing on the Doorstep (4 stars) - Again, more entertaining than scary.
The Music of Erich Zann (4 stars) - A slightly more traditional horror story, very enjoyable.
The Lurking Fear (2 stars) - The only good bit (albeit horrific) was the friend's missing face after looking out the window. The rest wasn't very good.
The Picture in the House (5 stars) - Short, chilling and slightly grisly.
The Shadow Over Innsmouth (5 stars) - Huge fun! What with the protagonist learning more strange stuff as he wanders round the town, it reminded me of 'The Wicker Man', but with fish :)
The Shadow Out of Time (2 stars) - First half boring; over-explained, bad sci-fi featuring unconvincing 10-foot tall conical slugs with appendages on stalks. Second half slightly better; preferred the expedition to the Australian desert but the endless wandering round underground ruins could have been written with more suspense.
Overall I loved the world that Lovecraft creates - one where learned, sophisticated men are driven mad in a world full of change and the foreign. I was completely sold by the mythology he creates, what with all his ancient manuscripts and sinister cults, and I enjoyed the way he mentioned real people to give weight to the mythos, such as Henry Fuseli and Dr. John Dee. 5 stars.
- This was a re-read for me and I do remember the main plot twist and that I enjoyed the book. Didn't realise there was a sequel until I added it to LT.
- Starts off scary! Although restrained for James Herbert, that doesn't mean it's the most restrained ghost/haunted house story. Has lots of big, big scares, and isn't particularly subtle about it, but very enjoyable. It's also a short read.
- I liked the characters of the Psychical Research Institute, especially the main character David Ash, who was very typical of Herbert's down-to-earth, manly men. Will definitely look out for the sequel, The Ghosts of Sleath.
- A lot of the twists were obvious but that was part of the fun too. It reminded me of horror as done by British TV in the 80s, such as 'Hammer House of Horror', so for me there was a real sense of nostalgia which might be missing for younger readers. Old manor houses, driving round country lanes in old cars, red telephone boxes, pubs divided into public and saloon bar, British Rail trains, tape recorders, polaroid cameras - I loved it :)
- One of the flashback scenes was ludicrous. It's a seance gone wrong, and it's spectacular, but considering the lack of subtlety and the 80s 'low-brow' mood, it didn't ruin the book. Was silly, though.
This was a quick, fun, scary read, but got an extra star for the nostalgic 80s television feel of it. 4 stars.
SPOILERS FOLLOW WHICH COULD RUIN THE BOOK FOR SOME.
- There is no build-up in mood or atmosphere; the background, house and main characters are all introduced in the first chapter.
- Caroline Ayres reminds me very much of Carol Thatcher :)
- Liked the references to other Gothics eg two siblings, one called Roderick (The Fall of the House of Usher), and the setting of the stopped clock over the dairy, to 'twenty to nine' (Great Expectations).
- Quite obvious early on that class is going to be a major theme of the book. The old-fashioned manners and attitudes of the Ayres' family, the chippiness of Dr. Faraday, and all summed up quite early on in a horrendous party thrown at Hundreds Hall.
- By about halfway through I'm wondering where the horror is! It's clear Roderick Ayres has mental problems and there's nothing ghostly going on. Still it's very readable, a bit of a family melodrama in the Gothic vein.
- I don't know if the house is meant to be a metaphor for the mental state of the family as in many haunted house stories, but it's not coming across to me. I am kept reading, however, by an urge to see what becomes of the characters.
- About 300 pages in events become more unexplained; is it hysteria or is there a supernatural explanation? Book becomes a page-turner at this point.
- Have wondered at Dr. Faraday's motives a few times; he sometimes seems more worried about the house than the family and he does not listen to Caroline. I think he's creepy.
- Oooh, some scary scenes! I found the SSSSSS's on the wall more creepy than the locking in of Mrs. Ayres in the nursery, which was more suspenseful and dramatic. Both were very good.
- Dr. Faraday gets worse; classic unreliable narrator.
- Ending is creepy. Should have seen it coming but it still came as a shock to me to find Dr. Faraday creeping round the abandoned house.
I really liked this. I was slightly deceived at first by what I thought was the not too convincing undertone of 'house as metaphor', but all the while something more sinister is going on. I found this the most clever aspect of the book, and very chilling. Makes you play over the book in your head and a second read will have a very different feel to it. I came across a review that compared Dr. Faraday to Tom Ripley, and I think that hits the nail on the head for me. 5 stars.
- Takes forever to get going! The early chapters are not scary at all, but mysterious.
- By page 101 there have been two sightings of the ghost and some screaming in the fog, but I've yet to be frightened; however, the mood must be getting to me because I'm apprehensive about Arthur's return to Eel Marsh House....
- Arthur's stay at Eel Marsh House is actually quite scary.
- Spider is the only sympathetic character so far.
- Second-to-last chapter has a few minor annoyances that have taken me out of the story; Arthur should have been soaked and freezing, and would have needed to get changed and warmed up, after his rescue of Spider from the marshes, but there's no mention of this when Samuel Daily finds him; Arthur mentions "going home" when on his way back to Samuel Daily's, after staying there for one night!
- The history of the ghost wasn't particularly surprising.
- Now that all suspense has been killed by lazy writing, a twist has been thrown out there, regarding dying children. It's obvious what will now happen, the question is - will it be scary?
- Ending was too abrupt and not at all scary. There's no tying in to the first chapter, which makes the beginning of the book rather redundant.
In short, there was a scary bit in the middle, but the lead up took too long and the ending was too abrupt and obvious. The twists weren't very original either. Based on this book it seems Susan Hill can write scary scenes but can't come up with a plot worthy of them. 3 stars.
- Love the idea from the off (a fictional book based on the Borley Rectory haunting) but have my worries about the writing from very early on.
- Loads of spelling mistakes and typing errors.
- Part 1: Not too exciting. Wondering how much is true is keeping my interest.
- Part 2: A bit more interesting now we're at Borley Rectory, but not scary in the slightest.
- Don't know if the real Harry Price was this forceful a personality in real life; he's certainly written in a very colourful way and is the most interesting character, although he's not at all sympathetic and a bit of a caricature. The other characters are pure cardboard. It makes no sense for Sarah to be interested in either Harry or the journalist.
- Can't see the point of the footnotes, unless it was a way for the author to show off his research.
- By the end of part 2 I'm bored and still not sure where the book is going, or what it's supposed to be. Is it a horror? Romance? Mystery? Drama?
- Part 3: Intrigued by the title: The Bad Death of Harry Price.
- The 'twist' was pretty obvious by the time I got to it. There were some hints along the way although they weren't very well done, none of them being very well placed within the story.
- Oh it's a mystery! The journalist has been investigating Harry all along. Harry could possibly be a murderer and Sarah could possibly be in danger.
- Epilogue is atrocious and contrived. Turns out the researcher who introduces the story is Sarah and Harry's son, and the person who gave him the document did it to ensure he'd look after Harry's archive. The researcher was too easy to emotionally blackmail, and the person doing the emotional blackmail wasn't very convincing.
- Interesting to find out what is true in the author's note at the end, but troubling to find out how many liberties the author had taken with Harry Price's reputation. No need to suggest he was a Nazi sympathiser or suspected murderer when there seems so much controversy attached to his name. Sarah is based on another assistant and there's no suggestion of a relationship with Harry.
Weird plot, terrible writing. 1 star.
- Cool, calm narration by a psychologist, Peter Cleave, but a couple of worrying comments from the narrator early on, such as speculating too much on Stella and Edgar's love life.
- Author writes very convincingly about mental health institutions.
- Edgar 'enucleated' his wife's head? What an awful way to put it - yuk!
- Story of Stella and Edgar's affair comes across as mundane and cliched as these things often are.
- Didn't take long for Edgar to take advantage - he's escaped by chapter 3. He's very well written, the classic manipulator. In fact all the main characters are well written, I feel I know just enough about them to want to know their stories.
- Stella will end up an alcoholic by the end of the book!
- Edgar is horrible and Stella is immature, self-absorbed and shallow, but they are fascinating.
- Stella's decline into depression is very sad and it's depressing to watch her being taken advantage of sexually.
- Max had my sympathies but has turned cold and passive-aggressive. It's upsetting the way the men in Stella's life are treating her, and no-one seems to be caring for her, even though she's showing classic signs of depression. Her psychiatrist, Peter, doesn't seem overly concerned, and that's worrying too.
- Stella was obviously numb with depression when her son dies. She pretty much dissociates when she sees him in trouble.
- So it seems Peter had dodgy motives after all. He really is a slimy character. It's almost a triumph over all the using and useless men in her life when Stella kills herself and removes herself from their urge to use/punish/own her.
Very well written and will read more by Patrick McGrath, but it's not as much of a surprise OR as much fun as my last 'unreliable narrator' read, The Little Stranger. 4 stars.
- Didn't keep notes for this one, as it scared me so much!
- The action starts even earlier in the book than it does in the film (so much for Alfred Hitchcock getting the credit for the early offing of the main female character!). I was struck by the difference in appearance of Norman and Mary (Marion) from their on-screen versions - Norman is plump, dark blonde and balding, and Mary is dark haired and nothing like the cool blonde.
- Robert Bloch has a way with words that gets under your skin. He's very succinct so as a reader you are taking in the worst of the horrors very quickly, which is unnerving - he scares you before you have a chance to prepare yourself. The shower scene is terrifying and I had to put the book down for awhile. I never really got over that first scare and expected anything to happen, which made the reading of the book a very tense experience, but nothing is as terrifying as that early scene. For those who've read the book... it was the appearance of the face round the shower curtain, and the throw-away line about what 'mother' does to Marion after...
- Norman's reaction to the murder is chilling. He's genuinely disturbed and throws up on the floor, which is already blood soaked, and you get a real sense of how sickening the scene is in the bathroom. And he can only refer to the body as 'that thing in there', not out of disrespect but out of sheer horror.
- The book slows down somewhat when the detective turns up to investigate Mary's disappearance, and at this point seems more like a thriller. The book is short and fast-paced enough that this doesn't become boring.
- Norman's inner world is disturbing. His sheltered, isolated existence, with only a domineering mother and books about human atrocities for company, is sad, claustrophobic and unhealthy. He's very believable too; for instance, the books he reads are travelogues, histories and esoteric material, and he really believes himself to be well read, although as a reader what you notice is how he seems particularly taken with the gory and sensational bits.
- There's more of a back story about mother and a boyfriend, which gives some foreshadowing of what's to be revealed, although the fact that Norman is mother, and that mother is a stuffed corpse, is well known. I was interested in how the reveal would play out; turns out it's very creepy when it does happen, because you don't know WHEN it's coming, and because you are experiencing it through the shock of Mary's sister Lila, who is desperate to find her sister.
- It's horrible when Lila enters the Bates house. Firstly there's the bedroom scene, with grey and brown flecks of something in the bed (by this time you have a good idea what they come from); then there's the suspense of her looking around the cellar. The discovery of mother and the entrance of Norman in his mother's clothes are just as frightening as in the film. It's a great scene.
- The book wraps up with Norman in the mental hospital. A psychiatrist explains Norman's psychopathology to Mary's fiancée Sam, and then it ends with mother's thoughts - of the three identities (Norman, Norma and Normal is how the psychiatrist puts it), Norma (mother) has taken over.
It's a short read written in a gripping, succinct way. I was genuinely creeped out very early on and that set the tone for the whole book. I like the way Robert Bloch writes - he's very good at the short, snappy sentence but does it well enough that there is no need for lengthy passages of exposition or description. He also remembers to be scary, which some horror writers would do well to keep in mind. 5 stars.
Have you been watching the tv show: Bates Motel?
>75 Moomin_Mama: I'm not a TV watcher either, because I don't have cable. I mainly rely on my work library for movies/TV series and various online movie sites (IMDb, etc). Ah, yes. :) Dexter's definitely one of my favorite series. Bates Motel and Dexter aren't anything alike, but they're both good. I'd recommend them both.
Forgot to keep notes - I was so engrossed in the story I often read until I fell asleep holding the book! It's not an easy book and I've been really busy, so didn't get to pick it up nearly as often as I wanted. It's open to many interpretations and you could write a thesis on it, so I'll just pick out the parts that struck me as most in keeping with the horror theme.
- The first time we meet the Judge. It is the effect he has on people that I found most frightening - the crowd in the tent were easily convinced of the preacher's guilt and lost control very quickly. They were then quick to laugh and buy drinks when they found out the Judge was lying. He goes beyond mere persuasion and manipulation, stirring people up by his presence alone.
- The appearance of the Comanches, screaming out of the desert behind their huge herd. Although the kid is well used to violence, it's overwhelming, and the massacre of his party sets the tone for what is to come when he joins the Glanton gang. Little wonder the kid is able to fit into a scalping party after this experience.
- The sexual nature of much of the violence. McCarthy pulls no punches here. That first massacre scene has Comanches raping the dead and dying men, as well as mutilating and scalping them.
- The first sight of Glanton's gang. Covered in human body parts (scalps, necklaces of dried ears), they made me think of the four horseman of the Apocalypse, and with the Judge in tow they seemed particularly menacing - and capable of anything.
- The tree of babies, impaled under their chins and bloating in the sun. So horrific it is almost beyond comprehension; it just stands there, observed without comment or reaction by the gang.
- The discovery of the murdered half-breed child, the morning after the Judge walked the walls of the compound in the storm. It could only have been the Judge, and children are only murdered for one reason; you draw your own conclusions. Worse, nobody challenges the Judge and he acts as if nothing has happened. Really creepy.
- The keeping of the little boy from another massacre, by the Judge, only to kill and scalp him anyway.
- Tobin's story of the Judge, and how he saved the Glanton gang. Tobin echoes the unease the reader has about the Judge's presence within the group and his effect on it, and he seems to suggest something otherworldly about him.
- The increasingly out of control behaviour. It gives a real sense of how lawless the West was, and how truly frightening this could be for ordinary people trying to live their lives.
- The Judge left alone at the fortified hill as Glanton goes off to save David Brown. The warnings from fleeing locals as Glanton returns suggests that under the Judge's leadership the group has sunk to new depths of depravity.
- The Judge persuing the kid and Tobin through the desert, appearing and disappearing unexpectedly, sometimes shouting threats, sometimes trying to coax them out. It's even more chilling as he has the fool in tow like some kind of pet.
- The last meeting of the Judge and the kid/the man. Although you don't know what happens in the jakes, just the image of the huge Judge holding the man toward him is scary. And as people back away from what is left in the jakes, the Judge dances naked, playing the fiddle in the brothel. Dancing, dancing, as if he dances eternal.
- I don't even know where to start with the epilogue. Personally I assumed it was a prophecy of future mischief inspired by the Judge.
The vast majority of the horror comes from Judge Holden's character and actions. He terrified me and made my skin crawl.
- Written in the style of a 50's noir. The writing overall was average, and Harry Angel's narration was a little corny, but it was an easy read page-turner.
- Because the writing was so pedestrian, the disturbing details didn't actually disturb.
- There were some ridiculous scenes. Harry Angel posing as a window cleaner and listening at a high-rise window was pretty far-fetched, and Epiphany sneaking out of Harry's apartment, disguised as a cleaner, was silly.
- The plot was interesting although the ending was obvious.
- The book was made into a film, 'Angel Heart', which is a favourite of mine. I think the film has a lot more style than the book and is a more effective horror, with the disturbing aspects of the plot portrayed as more appropriately sleazy. It's hard to say how much I saw coming as I was familiar with the plot from the film, which is broadly faithful to the book.
- I found Louis Cyphre's unexplained magic act the most effective part of the book; it had a 'weird fiction' tone to it. I don't remember this scene in the film.
A fast, page-turning read, ultimately forgettable but entertaining while it lasts. 3 stars.
Didn't take notes for this one and the plot is fairly convoluted, so I'll simply jot down some impressions -
- An easy read from the beginning with short scenes, but I didn't care for any of the characters. They were either flat or unbelievable. Moira, in particular, was ridiculous. I didn't buy her psychic powers, the magic of her comb, or her effect on men, particularly Matt Castle.
- The Celtic history convention scenes were laughable. Mungo Macbeth, with his stupid name and instant attraction to Moira, was a typical pulp horror character, and the collapse of Moira while stuffed heads flew off the walls was so badly written that I wasn't at all sure what was going on.
- A lot of the characters and scenes were stereotypical of pulp horrors, for instance the relationship between Dr. Hall and his secretary. I found myself thinking of James Herbert a lot of the time, but he tries to be scary.
- I didn't find any of the book scary, or creepy. Described as a horror thriller, I'd say it was a thriller with a supernatural theme. There was one part which made me queasy - when Dic was strapped to a chair with his wrists cut, and they were bound so the satantsts could control the flow of the blood. I'm squeamish and I found that hard to read.
- There was very little that was normal or ordinary in the book. I think horror works best when the otherworldly intrudes on the everyday, or if the story takes place in its own contained, consistent world. As well as the magical powers of almost everybody in the book, I was expected to swallow the fanatical vicar Joel Beard and his demented congregation.
- The plot had promise, and made me think of English horror films of the 60s and 70s.
- I enjoyed the Celtic lore. "Our Sheila", or the Sheila na gig, was almost a character of her own.
- As easy as it was to read, it was way too long and boring a lot of the time.
On reflection, 2 stars.
- Amusing and quirky rather than really funny.
- The characters have a certain charm and are likeable, especially the Emperor and his 'men'.
- I liked the Emperor's take on those that work in the financial and business sector, as fallen gods who are unaware that their time has passed. It's a nice thought but 20 years on, nothing seems to have changed!
- There are a few characters and plot-lines that go nowhere, but the plot moves along at a decent pace and these are soon forgotten.
- The necrophiliac morgue assistant didn't seem in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book, and was just a little too 'ugh'.
- Overall I thought this was entertaining fluff; not a favourite but a beach or travel read.