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sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


I've read some horror novels recently and I think most of them weren't mentioned in this thread, so let me give you some short reviews.

The Fisherman - John Langan: Really great stuff. It's about a guy who just lost his wife, he starts to go fishing, during one of his trips a tavern owner shares a creepy story about some supernatural events that had happened many years ago near the creek. Very strong Lovecraft/Cosmic Horror vibes, also deals a lot with the pain of losing a loved one, of course these things are interconnected throughout the story.

House of Windows - John Langan: His previous novel and nowhere near as good. It's more of a haunted house / ghost story. If The Fisherman resembles Lovecraft, I'd put this one into the Stephen King category. The actual horror is spread out very thin, among dozens and dozens of paragraphs of stuff that's not really interesting. It's told from the perspective of a young woman, she tells her story to a friend after her husband disappeared under mysterious circumstances. So there is a frame narrative, but it doesn't add anything to the actual story or reading experience; it is actually very irritating because she constantly describes situations in which she was not present, including what other characters thought and felt. She and her husband also have terribly stilted dialogue all the time, they are both literature scholars, but it's too much. Nobody quotes Dickens while having a fight with his wife because there is suddenly a face in the kitchen wall.

Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson: This has been recommended already, I also liked it a lot, but I liked the writing and characterisations more than the actual plot. Still, it's short, read it.

Bird Box - Josh Malerman: Hated it. It's a small miracle that I actually finished it, but it's really short and Malerman cannot form a sentence that is longe than six words, so it's easy to skim through most of it without missing anything. The premise is really interesting - Something appears on Earth, and as soon as you see it, you kill everyone around you and then yourself. The actual threat is never revealed, which sounds really interesting, because, you know, the old rule about horror films becoming bad as soon as you can see the monster. So why did I hate it? Most of all the writing style. As I said above it's very short sentences, often 1-2 words repeated a couple of times. Reminded me of Palahniuk and doesn't create the right atmosphere. The plot is also paper thin. It's never scary or surprising. Skip it.

X's for Eyes - Laird Barron: I had never read Laird Barron and I will never read anything from him again. This is only an 80 page novella - again, sounds very interesting, Lovecraftian gods and so on - but I couldn't finish it. The style is terrible and it feels like reading only every third chapter out of an actual novel. The plot moves with nonsensical speed and new characters jump in and out all the time and everything is so, dunno, lolrandom and edgy or whatever you call that. If you gave me this book and told me it's a Garth Marengi tie-in novel, I would believe you.

Ritual - Graham Masterson: This one was just great fun. It's about a restaurant critic and his son, they don't have a good relationship, and then the son joins a cult of people who believe that you get closer to God if you eat parts of yourself. Because, you know, the body of christ and actually humans are made in god's image, so it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? The novel takes a while to get going but the final third is the most insane stuff I've ever read. Trashy, gory, horribly sexist at times - it felt like a pen&paper campaign with a really sadistic GM. If you don't mind detailed descriptions of self-cannibalism, pick it up.

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sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


So I just finished A Head full of Ghosts. Loved it! I'm a sucker for unreliable narrators and cross-media references. I was so happy when a character appeared with the same name as the protagonist of my favourite horror novel.
Ending discussion / spoilers:

The common theory online is that Merry was actually the one possessed by the demon. This is supported by a lot of things in the story, but why not go a step further? I think it's a Fight Club situation. Merry and Marjorie are the same.
Whenever Marjorie spoke to Merry, it was actually the demon. Most of what we read about the actual events is told by Merry, who is also blogging under a pseudonym, analyzing the reality tv show produced in her family home. Merry using a pseudonym here is the first hint, the second is that she admits at the very beginning how watching the show / all the other horror films influences how she remembers the actual story.
Another thing: At first, she (can't remember right now if it's actual Merry or the blogger persona) explains how actors are used as stand-ins for the family members in several scenes. But these are never mentioned again, in Merry's story or the blog posts. Is it possible that Merry was possessed / mentally ill, resulting in her killing her parents after the exorcism scene, and the TV people added a younger sister to make the story more entertaining, so now Merry uses that character as her own voice when she tells her memories to Rachel?

I know, in the end, everything is possible because it's an entirely unreliable narrator. But I really expected that to be the ending halfway through the novel and was a bit disappointed when it suddenly ended without an actual explanation.

sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


She's eight, yes, of course that also factors into the 'distortion' of her memories, apart from her watching/reading so many popular horror stories.

sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


All the features in Langan's writing which you are describing are much more prominent (ie worse) in his novel House of Windows. It's valid criticism of Fisherman but to me it's also striking how much Langan's writing improved between the two books.

sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


Well, it's not Infinite Jest.

sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


Just finished Adam Neville's Last Days, I also read The Ritual a month ago. My thoughts: The Ritual is really good, a bit better than the movie. I know that the second half is really hit or miss for people who read it. I liked it because it was so strange and unexpected and it's cool that Neville decided to go this route instead of doing the more obvious and cliche conclusion, which the film does. What I didn't like so much was how Neville pretty much incapacitates his protagonist for the entire second half, so he's just lying there most of the time listening to his kidnappers expository monologue for dozens and dozens of pages without end.

Now, Last Days is difficult. I am a huge sucker for found footage films so the approach in this novel is right up my alley, and the first half of the novel is among the best stuff I've read this year. But here Neville forgot to include something interesting for the second half (felt like he ran out of ideas) which imo was really bad. Like in The Ritul, but worse. The entire last third of the book is Kyle being very scared and/or confused while the scholar in Antwerpen and then Max absolutely drown him in expository monologue about the real real truth of the cult, which was sadly underdeveloped being presented in this way, and then the last 50 pages it's suddenly Aliens.

sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


I'll recommend some Conrad Williams. The Umblemished and One are wonderfully bleak and dark.

sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


That's exactly my reaction to MofM, I couldn't even finish it. But HPL wrote some actually good stories, like The Color out of Space.

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sicDaniel
May 10, 2009


Have you read Bird Box and do you rank it higher than The Fisherman?

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