Monday, April 04, 2016

The Fireman

I was lucky enough to get a review copy of Joe Hill's next novel, The Fireman,  from the publisher. It's set in an apocalyptic world, where an infectious fungus causes people to spontaneously combust. The main character is an infected and pregnant nurse who is aided by a fireman with the ability to control fire. The nurse escapes from a psychotic husband to a campground full of infected people who have learned how to avoid combustion by group singalongs.

The the book drags quite bit. It's obvious that the camp is only going to be a temporary solution. The infected are surrounded by people who would kill them if they were discovered. The camp's leader seems to be turning into a religious fanatic. Anyone who doesn't fit is ostracized. It's blatantly obvious after a couple of chapters that things are going to fall apart there, but we still spend about half the book in the camp before the hero sets out on a quest to find a new refuge in Martha Quinn's Island.

Frankly I don't think this is Hill's best work. The novel suffers from a bit of bloat, and would have been much better if the camp scenes had been trimmed a bit. That said, it was still enjoyable if predictable read.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dark Screams Three

I just finished reading a review copy of Dark Screams: Volume Three, and I've got to say, this series just seems to keep going downhill.

The book starts off with "The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero," by Peter Straub. This is a fake collection of short stories told as if written by a five-eight year old boy with no grasp of spelling. If reading a series of "stories" rendered into borderline gibberish is something you think you'll like then you might like this story, otherwise you're better off not wasting your time.

Next up come the utterly predictable and sadly disappointing "Group of Thirty" by Jack Ketchum. It's the story of a hardcore horror author who is asked to address a group of wannabe science fiction writers. When he finds the group meeting at a church , it becomes blindingly obvious that this is going to be about a writer who is forced to defend his writing to a bunch of religious nutbags, or face the consequences. The ending of the story borders on being deus ex machina, making it all even less appealing. The main character seems to be a stand in for Ketchum himself, as one of the stories he defends seems to be a thinly veiled version of his own extremely disturbing The Girl Next Door, which makes it not completely crappy, but far from Ketchum's best work.

Next up comes a tale of highschool angst called "Nancy," by Darynda Jones. It's about a teenaged girl who moves to a small town and tries to get to know a misfit girl named Nancy, who is haunted by a ghost. I found the story to be extremely tedious until we got to the twist ending, which actually surprised me.

Story four is "I Love You, Charlie Perason," by Jacquelyn Frank. It's about a disturbed teenage boy who is obsessed with a cheerleader. You can tell after the first paragraph that he's going to end up kidnapping her or something. As with the previous story, I just found it tedious and boring until it gets to a twist ending that I didn't see coming.

The final tale is the only one that I actually enjoyed, "The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away," by Brian Hodge. It's about a middle-aged married man who has a young woman move in next door. She introduces him to parkour, urban exploration, and thinking about the apocalypse. She also causes trouble between the man and his wife. Despite the horror elements not showing up until near the end of the story, this is my favorite of the lot.

So, this anthology consists of one story I think is terrible, one story I think isn't very good, two stories that are kind of boring but with good endings, and one story that is actually good. I can't help but think that passing on this anthology would be a wise move.



Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts is not what I'd normally expect to see in a book where a character is said to be possessed. I mean that in a good way.

This book is told from the point of view of a woman who as a young girl who saw her older sister suffer from schizophrenia. Unfortunately, there father has recently lost his job and found religion. This combination causes him to become convinced that the elder girl is possessed and to get the family to take part in a reality show culminating in his elder daughter's exorcism.

There are no obvious supernatural elements. Instead of being a horror story about a girl's head doing 360° turns while projectile vomiting pea soup, it's about what happens when the horrors of mental illness, religious fanaticism, and the reality TV culture intersect.  This makes for the sort of book that is as likely to appeal to people who don't read horror as it will to those of us who do.