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1041565What’s it all about?

The event became known as The Pulse. The virus was carried by every cellular phone operating in the world. Within hours, those receiving calls would become insane – or die.

Indeed, that is the basic premise of Cell. But let’s not beat about the bush – this is basically a zombie novel 🙂

Why did I want to read it?

Well, have been taking part in the King’s March challenge and had done quite well (two short stories, one new novel and one re-read) and hadn’t really thought to pick up any others even though there was a chunk of the month still to go. But when looking for something else I came across this 2006 novel which I had completely forgotten about, and as I was looking for something light (if insane phone-call triggered zombies can be called light) to read, here we are.

What did I think of it?

While far from being his best novel I thought Cell was a cool idea that was pretty well executed. Like a lot of King’s novels it stands or falls on what you think of the main protagonist and Clay Riddell, the comic book artist whose world is turned upside down in seconds, is a likeable character driven to do some very brave things through a desire to get back to the family from whom he has been separated. So as well as being about zombies it is also a classic quest – Clay is joined by a small band of people with whom he has been thrown together by circumstances outside of his control and they head out of burning Boston so he can try to find his son.

The development of the zombies is very interesting and unusual (to me at least) and without giving anything away they become much more than the standard mindless brain-eating hordes that you might have expected. I like the fact that we never know what caused The Pulse, and I also like the way the novel ends. But it’s the characters that make this successful – human and flawed and trying their best in a terrible situation but not always getting it right.

I liked it.

IMG_0213What’s it all about?

North American Lake Monsters is a collection of horror stories set in the modern USA. I described it in my reading notes as

horror at the periphery of everyday lives of working people, mostly men

The description I’ve seen elsewhere (and not until after I’d finished the book) is

In this striking, bleak yet luminous debut collection, Nathan Ballingrud, winner of the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award, uses the trappings of the Gothic and the uncanny to investigate a distinctly American landscape: the loneliest and darkest corners of contemporary life.

So better put but fairly similar *phew*

Why did I want to read it?

I had come across a couple of Ballingrud’s stories in other collections and want to give his wider work a try. I hadn’t realised how many awards he had been nominated for until I got my hands on the volume (though nominations or award wins don’t always affect whether I want to read something).

What did I think of it?

Hmm. This was really a bit of a mixed bag. It contained the two stories I had read elsewhere, one of which didn’t stand up to a second read; the other, The Crevasse, was wonderfully Lovecraftian in its Antarctic setting and I enjoyed it just as much this time around. As for the others, I could appreciate the skill but they just didn’t connect with me; perhaps they were just too bleak (not that I mind bleak usually, but there was no relief at all here that I could see), and *whispers* too masculine for me. That’s not something I think I would have noticed if I’d come across any of these stories mixed in with the work of others, but it just leapt out at me reading them in a single volume.

Glad I gave it a shot but I don’t think I’ll be actively seeking out any more of his work.

I read this as part of the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge.

IMG_0209Whats it all about?

The Wide Carnivorous Sky (subtitle and Other Monstrous Geographies) is a collection of nine modern horror stories.

Why did I want to read it?

I came across the work of John Langan through the annual best of horror anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow where his stories stuck out as something exceptional. I wanted to read more and got a hold of this collection as a good starting point. He is clearly highly regarded by his peers.

What did I think about it?

I really enjoyed this collection which nicely covers the full range of horror themes. Cannibalistic children? Check. Zombie apocalypse in the style of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town? Check. Werewolf-type things? Check. Unspeakable Lovecraftian entities breaking into our world and creating havoc? Why yes. Reasons why you shouldn’t hitch-hike? Indeed.

Particular favourites were

  • Technicolor – what was Poe up to in his lost week, what’s the Masque of the Red Death about, why you should really pay attention in your English Lit class
  • The Wide Carnivorous Sky – space vampires meet USA’s finest but not in a good way; assuming there is in fact a good way….

and my absolute favourite in the collection

  • Mother of Stone – the story of an academic investigating what appears to be an urban legend of about the events that follow the digging up and installation in a local hotel of a statue of headless pregnant woman, taking in myths, ancient religions, all manner of Fortean stuff and turning it into a disturbing tale of what happens when you don’t leave something well enough alone.

The collection also includes an introduction by Jeffery Ford and an afterword by Laird Barron, as well as notes on the stories by the author himself (I love author’s notes and aways read them where they are included) which give some insight into the genesis of the stories and what he was trying to achieve.

I’m pleased that my initial feelings about Langan’s work have been reinforced by the stories in this book, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more.

I read this as part of the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge. I also learned that I have real problems typing the word “carnivorous”.

8429687What’s it all about?

Deadline is the sequel to Feed which I read and loved some 3 years ago and am ashamed that I’ve only just got round round to picking this up. In order to avoid spoilers about the plot I’m going to lift from the blurb:

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organisation he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. […] But when a researcher from the Centre for Disease Control fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a revenues pack of zombies in tow, Shaun’s relieved to find a new purpose in life.

So the novel picks up from where the last one left off, but this time it’s mostly from Shaun’s perspective and the conspiracy uncovered in Feed is still alive and well. Just worse. Much worse.

Why did I want to read it?

The zombie kick which I’ve been experiencing all year continues. Plus as I said I really enjoyed the tone and pace of the first book and this looked like it was going to be more of the same. Science + conspiracy + zombies, what’s not to like?

What did I think of it?

I wasn’t sure if I would like the book quite as much with the shift in protagonist but I needn’t have worried, this is just as exciting as Feed and I came to like Shaun just as much. The thing that I can’t talk about without spoiling the first book was a concern as I thought it would become really annoying or at best a bit unbelievable but actually it works really well because everyone recognises that it isn’t normal (and I have either said too much already or been so cryptic that you’re all scratching your heads wondering what I’m on about).

And it has another cracking ending which makes me very keen to read the final book in the trilogy, already downloaded and being saved for the holidays.

Another fine entry in an excellent run of reads. Waiting for it all to crash and burn 🙂

13342065What’s it all about?

The world has been devastated by a virus which has turned the huge majority of the population into *gasp* zombies. However, time has passed and the survivors have fought back and stabilised areas of the USA and have optimistically started to rebuild civilisation (as far as they can anyway). The book follows our main character, known only by his nickname Mark Spitz, over three days in Zone One (Manhattan) as he and his small unit sweep up straggling zombies so that the island can be re-inhabited.

Why did I want to read it?

I’m in  bit of a zombie kick at the moment, plus I’m pretty sure I saw this favourably reviewed in a blog that I can’t remember (I really must get better at recording recommendations from other bloggers so they can be properly acknowledged) and was keen to give it a go as it sounded a bit different.

What did I think of it?

I thought this was a really well-written and affecting novel of the zombie apocalypse. I liked the structure, split over the three days of single weekend where we got to know the characters, how they are doing now and just as importantly how they got here. Flashbacks are used effectively to describe the suddenness of the epidemic, and how devastating it was for individuals. For example Mark Spitz comes home from a weekend away with his friend to find his infected mother attacking his father and just has to make a run for it. I liked the fact that not all of the survivors are the ones you would obviously think would make it. And the story of how Mark Spitz got his nickname is great.

My only quibble isn’t with the book or the author Colson Whitehead, whom I wasn’t at all aware of (my knowledge of contemporary US mainstream fiction is patchy at best to my shame), but rather with the critical reaction to it. As I’ve said I thought this was really well written, a strong story with an interesting approach to a staple of the horror genre but a number of the reviews I read talk a lot about the marrying of genre and literary fiction, because Whitehead has won a Pulitzer prize and that somehow makes his approach to the subject matter more valid and of greater value than more obviously genre authors (to some commentators at least).

And perhaps it’s just my own sensitivity but I get annoyed at the idea that it’s OK to like genre fiction as long as it is written by someone who is a mainstream author, so we can all pretend it isn’t really genre fiction at all but using tropes to talk about something else, as if that isn’t what genre and speculative fiction does anyway.

But, climbing down from my soapbox, you should give Zone One a try, it’s a really good take on what happens when you think you’ve overcome the zombie hordes and worth reading.

IMG_0166Let the Old Dreams Die is a book of horror short stories by the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, first published in 2006 but only relatively recently available in an English language translation. I was very keen to read some of his shorter work having been very impressed by the three of his four novels that I’ve read so far:

I really enjoyed this collection which I read over several days while on holiday, staying in a former stately home in Cumbria. I like Lindqvist’s take on horror, which doesn’t ignore gory unpleasantness (as anyone who knows what happens at the end of Let the Right One In will confirm) but is overwhelmingly, to my mind at any rate, one of creepiness tinged with melancholy, which means they aren’t the sort of stories you can binge on. As an aside, I once heard an author being interviewed on the radio (I think it was Anne Enright but I’m not sure) who said something along the lines that people tend to approach anthologies the way they do a box of chocolates – they either eat them singly over time and savour each one, or they devour the lot in one go – I have done both in my time. This is definitely a one sweetie at a time thing.

I’m not going to pick out any individual stories to mention (except perhaps Village on the Hill which led me to consider drains more carefully than I had before) but will say that for many readers the two titles of most interest  will be the title story which is sort of but not quite a sequel to Let the Right One In (Lindqvist himself says in his afterword that it deals with a problem of interpretation that he hadn’t identified until he saw the movie version) and The Final Processing, the longest story in the collection, which is basically a sequel to Handling the Undead. There is also Eternal/Love where I think you can see Lindqvist exploring some of the themes that pop up in Harbour.

I really enjoyed this selection; it was a perfect autumn holiday read and it has made me want to pick up the most recent novel, Little Star. Recommended.

This was my second read for RIP IX.

IMG_0114What’s it all about?

The Girl With All The Gifts is the story of Melanie, about 10 years old and clearly very bright indeed. She also happens to be a zombie, something we learn very early on in the story though Melanie herself doesn’t come to realise this for quite some time. She attends school on an army base with a number of other children just like her in that although they have the drive to eat human flesh like the other “hungries” who have apparently overrun the world, they are also high functioning, intelligent, able to learn and therefore of great interest to the authorities. For the reason they are being held on this base is to be tested (by being taught like normal children would) and experimented on (in rather unpleasant ways) to find out exactly why they are so different and whether this could lead to a cure.

And then it all goes a bit wrong….

Why did I want to read this?

I think I’ve said before that I tend to be more of a vampire than zombie girl but I’ve had the good fortune to read a couple of very good zombie stories over the past few years, and this one came highly recommended. The idea of intelligent zombies who can (at least in Melanie’s case) come to understand what they are and up to a point exercise some level of self-control sounded fascinating, and I really wanted to give this a go to see if it lived up to expectations.

What did I think of it?

Oh, I had all the feelings about this book!

This is an absolutely brilliant novel and I read it in a couple of sittings, desperate to find out what would happen to Melanie. The great strength of the novel is the characterisation, and not just that of Melanie whose side I was definitely on all the way through but the adults that surround her especially once things move outside the base itself. The most sympathetic is Miss Justineau, Melanie’s favourite teacher who has come to think of her as a “normal” child  and has introduced her to the Greek myths including the story of Pandora (who was the original “girl with all the gifts”) and believes that her life is worth preserving despite the risks.

But we also have Sgt Parks who over time comes to respect Melanie (in his own way), Pte Gallagher who has known nothing other than a world full of zombies, and Dr Caldwell, the female scientist so obsessed with understanding how the infection that caused zombies spread that she is unable (or refuses) to see the children as people and treats them with appalling cold-bloodedness.

I’m not going to say anything else about the plot because it needs to be experienced first hand though I would agree with other reviews that there isn’t a huge amount that is new here, but I came to feel so strongly about Melanie that none of that mattered. I could see where it might end up and was mostly right but that’s not really the point, and I found the end of the story very satisfying.

I was really pleased that this turned out to be such a good read given that I persuaded Silvery Dude to buy a copy to take on holiday with him. I think he’s finished it but he hasn’t told me what he thinks of it – I’m assuming positive response as we had an exchange of e-mails casting the movie version.

I loved this and can’t recommend it highly enough.

IMG_0061What’s it all about?

The world has been overrun by zombies (again) but at least one of them, known to us only as R because he has no memory of his name  or age or anything including how he came to be a zombie, is not quite what he seems. And one day when hunting he sees Julie, a live human, and instead of eating her he decides to save her, triggering a whole set of events that could change the world.

Why did I want to read this?

Warm Bodies received a strong recommendation from Silvery Dude who apparently read it in one sitting and is hardly ever wrong when it comes to suggesting things that I might enjoy. Plus I’m coming around to the whole zombie thing (though so far nothing touches World War Z which I loved).

What did I think?

A different take on the whole zombie thing. Yes, in some ways its the same old same old (Zombie plague overrunning the world? Breakdown of civilisation as we know it? Rise of the military?) but it’s interesting to see it from the non-human side for a change, what it might feel like to be a zombie, all that jazz.

I liked R and his friend M and of course the lovely Julie very much, the love story was sweet and convincing but at one point I became so anxious about their situation and how it was going to work out for them that I had to stop reading for a bit. I don’t think I have ever wanted a happy ending quite so much. Very enjoyable indeed.

Now for the movie.

comics-nos-4r2-cover-artworkAt least I think that’s how you’re supposed to write it…..

What’s it all about?

Very nasty serial killer with supernatural car and obsession with Christmas seems to have come back to life and is going after the girl who got away in order to wreak his revenge.

Why did I want to read it?

It’s complicated.

What did I think of it?

That’s also complicated. N0S-4R2 had the same effect on me that Drood did only slightly more so. I have several Joe Hill books but until this had only read one (Heart-Shaped Box which I reviewed here). I should have loved this one; after all serial killer, nasty accomplice, heroine who has had her life ruined by early trauma having to face up to her fears, plucky small boy, flawed but loving husband. And then there are the supernatural elements, our heroine’s special ability, the whole Christmasland thing, and of course the car. I didn’t mind the violence; let’s face it I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of horror so violence isn’t something I’m overly bothered about. I came to like several of the characters. There was just something that didn’t click for me which left this being a good book rather than a great one. I think it was just too long and baggy for the story that was being told; I stopped reading it for a bit because a little voice in my head which kept asking why is this taking so long? And yet despite that the ending felt a bit rushed to me (while also setting up a possible sequel). What it comes down to is that I felt tense and anxious for the Vic and Lou and Wayne while I was reading it but I was never actually scared


A hard one. I really wanted to like this more. It’s by no means bad, has real flashes of inventiveness but *whispers* it outstayed its welcome. Hasn’t stopped me buying the comic though (Lord knows what that says about me).

RIP8main200So it’s September tomorrow and that means the start of one of my favourite blogging event’s, Carl’s RIP VIII and the opportunity to read scary and thrilling stuff along with lots of other members of the book blogging community.

As is traditional I have pulled together a book list out of which I hope to be able to meet Peril the Second, where I need to read four books that fit the description of perilous. I’d love to be able to read them all, but we’ll see how that goes.

My list is (in no particular order):rip8peril2nd

A pretty good selection I think, and I’m looking forward to all of them.

rip8perilonscreenI may also take part in Peril on the Screen but no real plans on what that might involve, though it is really about time I re-watched one of my Desert Island Films, Son of Frankenstein with *sigh* Basil Rathbone.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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March 2023