The Exorcist (A book review)

Rating 4/5

The ExorcistIt’s seems every decade has had it Satanic panic, the 1960’s had it’s Manson murders, Rosemary’s baby, The First Church of Satan and the old Barbara Steel films. The 1970’s saw the rise of poltergeist mostly in the way of Enfield poltergeist, Damien of The Omen fame and of course William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist; often quoted by British film critic Mark Kermode as the greatest film ever made. The 1980’s saw the true Satanic Panic, cults on every street corner, any heavy metal album played backwards would enter you in to a pact with Old Nick to sell your very soul, except the records of christian heavy metal band Stryper for obvious reasons. The 1990’s again saw music being responsible with such acts as Marilyn Manson being held up as the poster boy for all that was unwholesome at the time.

Blatty’s Exorcist is for me the corner stone of all possession stories if you have read A Head full of Ghost. you will notice it is an uplift to Blatty’s 1970’s blue print. The story centers around Regan the daughter of a well heeled Hollywood actress, who happens to be working on her next project in Washington at the local Jesuit college.

It starts off slow, there are the usual bangs and knocking one would associate with a haunting. Stuff goes missing and appears in placing, there is an Ouija board too. Regan starts to become ill and traditional medicine has now answers so it’s to psychology and aliments of the mind becoming the reason of the illness. Enter priest Father Karras who happens to be both of the cloth and a physiologist, who is struggling with his own faith.

The story is a slow boil and is both a horror story and a physiological thriller, I am not sure by reading it, is Blatty  pro or against the Catholic church. it never crosses the line in to praise or scorn. Blatty’s style and prose is not straight forward either paragraphs switch between characters who may not even be in the same room.

“He walked up the stairs”

“While he was walking up the stairs across town she was boarding a bus”

It is an interesting style and does take some getting use to it maybe a detraction for some readers but after a while one gets to enjoy it. The real gem of the story is the brilliantly realized Kinderman , LT of detectives across between Columbo and Phillip Marlowe. A character that needs seeking out and devoured in the best sense.

Faith, loss, a mothers love are recurring themes through out the book Regan’s mother knows what happens to at least one person does she do the right thing?

It may be a little dated at times, but it works will and you can understand why the film always pops up in them 101 horror movies to see before you die lists. it is a slow boil but a lot of the best horror is. Read that then read A Head full Of Ghost the fitting homage to Blatty.

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My Life As A White Trash Zombie

Rating 3/5

 

I’ve made references to the zombie zeitgeist in my review of The Girl With All The Gifts, sMy Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowlando I wont cover the old ground in this review but the zombie genre isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Diana Rowland’s 1st in the White Trash Zombie series, My Life As A White Trash Zombie. Takes the zombie trope and presents it from the zombie’s perspective. The best use of this I have seen is the film, Wasting Away, low budget B movie comedy horror at it’s best.

Rowland’s White Trash Zombie, Angel Crawford is down on her luck, recently woken up in hospital, with no memory how she got there, a hunger for brains and a mysterious note with instructions on how to embark on a new job at the Coroner’s office. Angel is turning her life around with a job, a deadbeat father  and dropout boyfriend in tow. But someone is on the decapitation, killing the residents of Angel’s small tow

Angel’s assent in to a normal life albeit as a zombie comes across as rather slapdash in someways it reads as an addict trying to recover only to be replaced with another addiction. It is a vehicle that assists in  driving the story but sometimes it becomes over stated short of stating: “Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiins” on every page, Rowland makes sure the reader knows Angel is a zombie, she reminds us every page.

The white trash element of the story seems tacked on and Angel never really comes across as white trash in the true definition of the label. A high school dropout who purports not to be smart as an impressive vocabulary of someone who isn’t that well read with an ability to reason and apply logic that would  make most chess grand masters blush. This element could have been fleshed out (pardon the pun) . Living in a shack with beer cans in the garden doesn’t really explore the white trash condition. And as this is a key selling point of the story, the reader is somewhat sold short on this narrative, maybe I like my stereotypes too much.

The story unfolds as you would imagine and the plot is the standard murder mystery that is often found in the urban fantasy market, “someone is killing our kind” but it is good enough to keep the story on track, there is a bit of background on Angel and her life at home that helps build Angel in to sympathetic character.  Angel could have been a lot more sassy along the lines of Anita Blake but Rowland was clever in the writing of Angel and allows the reader to line their sympathy with her.

My Life As A White Trash Zombie paves the way for the series it makes some mistakes along the way and Angel isn’t a fully developed character, but if you are a fan of urban fantasy there would be no shame in giving this a read.

Joyland by Stephen King a book review

Ratting 4/5

So if you have read my review of Titanic Thompson the man who bet on everything.you will know I have an affinity for the grifter and con-man being interested in such matters, I also have a passing interested in carnivals (fun fairs if you are from UK like me). If you have been following this blog you will also know that I am a fan of noir as Money Shot by Christa Faust and The Moving Target will attest to, you may also might have noticed a like a good horror story along the lines of A Head full of Ghost. You might have also have read that me and Stephen King have not the best relationship Stephen King’s IT: A book that that I couldn’t finish. So if you take a Noir story set it at a carnival, with a ghost written by Stephen King, I am not going to know what to to, could I suffer another 280ish pages of King again?

Joyland at it’s heart is a murder story against a backdrop of a carnival the titular Joyland. Add a dying child in a wheelchair who has a gift (I believe the King fans will call the is the shining), mix  in a young man’s story of love that was lost, drop in a story of friendship, whisk then add a ghost. You have one of the most unique pieces of noir fiction released by the Hard Case Crime Publishing house.

It’s hard to review Joyland with out spoilers and it is a story that I want you discover on your own. I would be doing you a disservice if I told you too much.

Devin Jones, has just had his heart broken by a woman, he decides to get a summer job at Joyland to take his mind of things. The old timers of the carnival speak of a murder in the fun house, Devin decides to delve deeper, whats more there is talk of a ghost as well.

Now in his 60’s Devin tells his story of working  at Joyland way back in 1973. Devin’s story covers loss, love and untimely closure, King weaves his story with enough carny slang draw you in to the world of the carnival, he brings the emotions to table and sets out a truly moving story. That’s all you need to know before you pick this up, fans of Kings non horror will enjoy this, fans of noir will enjoy this too, it might not be the hard boiled we know but it works.

Joyland  does 3 things.

  1. questions what  exactly is noir
  2. Sets up enough emotion to move and hook the reader
  3. Achieves the status of being a Stephen King book I like

Not being a King fan in a world where most Horror readers are, I may be a minority but Joyland is one of Kings works to the Contrary.  Enough elements to keep everyone’s interest going. And not a demonic clown in sight.

March Reading Retrospective

In March I blazed my way through 7 books, I was lucky as 6 of them were good reads. Here’s how I got on;

        Station Eleven 

Product DetailsThe first book I picked-up in March was Emily St-John Mandel’s excellent take on a post apocalyptic. fusing a sense of wonder and lost together for a world without society, electricity or modern trappings. Each character joins the dots to brilliant 3rd act

Station Eleven

 

The Girl With All The Gifts 

Product DetailsNext it was M.R Carey’s fantastic take on the Zombie story. Like Mandel’s Station Eleven above it focuses on the a post apocalyptic world and  a group of survivors with a small zombie
child in tow

The Girl With All The Gifts

 

The Troop

Product DetailsNext up to bat was Nick Cutter’s The Troop, a cross between Lord Of The Flies and Slither. unfortunately for me this fell flat. unlikable characters and it had a feel of being done before.

The Troop 

 

 

The Name Of The Wind

Product Details

Time for some high fantasy in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name Of The wind. Losses it pace in  the middle but beginning and ending more than make up for it. Even if the main character is annoyingly perfect.

The Name Of The Wind

 

The Moving Target

Product DetailsTime to get hard boiled in Ross MacDonald’s Moving Target. Introducing Lew Archer investigating his first case. Money, kidnap and religious cults are all used in this classic noir story.

The Moving Target

Fight Club

Product DetailsChuck Palahniuck’s debut novel, left it’s mark on culture and had everyone quoting from it. A social commentary of the 90’s that still stands 20 years latter.

Fight Club A book review

 

Titanic Thompson

Product DetailsLast up was Kevin Cook’s treatment of Titanic Thompson’s life. Profiling the highs and lows of the the greatest conman of the 20th of century. In one with a pass interest in hustling, conmen, golf or even American folk heroes.

Titanic Thompson

 

 

And there you have it not a bad month for reading, six solid books and one that fell flat percentage wise that is good odd as Titanic Thompson would say.

The Girl With All The Gifts

A Book Review 

The Horror director Joe Dante (Gremlins) once said if you wanted gauge a measure of decade then look at the Horror films they made at time, or words to that effect. Zombies are every where at the moment , TV , books , video games and even Lego had some Zombies.

M.R Carey embraces the zombie Zeitgeist. In his novel The Girl with all the gifts. Although they aren’t not called zombies no they are called hungries. And they are stalking the home counties like a an accountant that can no longer afford London.

Carey has taken the zombie in popular culture and melded something rather special from it. One part walking dead (I am not a fan of), one part Romero’s Day of the dead and one part the last of us (one of the most emotionally charged video games made – also with a zombie premiss). With a touch of 28 days later.

Carey’s main theme centres around the arcing story between teacher Helen Justineau and Melanie the aforementioned Girl with all the gifts. From student and teacher on a post collapsed military base but Melanie isn’t a normal child. Sub-plotted with Melanie’s relationship with Sargent Parks and Dr Caldwell. There are others but for me the relationship between these three are the stand out for me.

The story becomes classic Zombie/post apocalyptic fair. A military trying to hold to what they know, relationships between a group of people who would normally avoid each other down the local pub, A Dr needing to know more and the typical gang of outcast and survivalist know as junkers (think Mad Max beyond the thunder dome).

Carey uses the normal plot device of moving his characters from one safe location to another, along the lines of the walking dead and he could have easily fallen in to that territory, but manages to keep the pacing to the point where the reader wants the gang to move on and finally reach that safe place.

Although a number of the familiar plot devices and stereotypes are there which in hindsight could have made this another Zombie story. Carey manages to use these to his advantage both giving the reader a safe narrative and unfamiliar paths. Carey also writes his characters that the reader wants to route for them and are willing to forgive them for anything. Even when one admits to the murdering of a child.

The book excels in not only turning a familiar story around but it also explores relationships, love and the desire to survive when the chips are down.

The book resonated with me, but then that maybe I live near one of the areas mentioned in the story. I am looking forward to Carey’s next work.

The Troop a book review

Nick Cutter’s The Troop, takes a group of five Canadian scouts with their scoutmaster and places them on island, not far from Prince Edward Island. The scouts go around doing their scouting things (never being a scout I am not quite sure what that is) earning badges along the way.

Until a mysterious stranger appears on the island who is somewhat hungry. Things take a turn a for the worse. (Now you would be forgiven of thinking a zombie story but cutter eschews that trap rather well) During the course the story we see how this event impacts the group and pulls them apart and what do they do to survive the things the scout hand book doesn’t cover.

Cutter’s style is reminiscent of early Stephen King and he crafts the story well with his descriptions and building of the story. The trouble is it becomes run of the mill, a cross between Slither and Lord of the Flies the book struggles to take off and only really becomes interesting around page 330, the problem with this the book is only around 400 pages long.

Cutter presents the familiar characters any gang of teenage boys would amount to through the book with the Scout troop being a fairly obnoxious bunch :

Kent the Jock and the son of the police chief

Eef the alpha male

Max the nice guy

Newton the nerd

Shelly the weird one

Scoutmaster Tim who couldn’t run a bath let alone a scout troop.

A cast of supporting characters and out of all the characters the only interesting character is Admiral Stonewall who only turns up twice.

In the end Cutter doesn’t engage the reader to root for or like his characters. Which is shame as all the elements are there. It just falls flat.

The troop does ask some interesting questions. The few versus the many, how far would you go to survive, could a 14 year old be that twisted and even the morals of war. The questions are never answered and with the last part of the book being the best, I think the trick was last to make a fine horror novel in the vain of King, Koontz et-al

C****ship

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Censorship offends me. It is ironic the very thing that is designed not to offend me offends me. The removal of the very thing that makes us human, ideas and putting them in to motion being removed is a construct that doesn’t sit well.

Here in the UK we had a shift in the 80s a moral crusade against horror films. In fact many films were banned some still are. Wes Craven’s master piece Last house on the left was banned in the UK in its uncut form until 2008. The UK…the country that had the last great empire the country that had entered two wars in the middle east in the same decade had a film banned. Morality preached by censors but you could see soldiers on all sides of conflict missing limbs and being blow up.

Over 40 films banned in the UK due to a government’s mistrust of its people. Thinking they will go and rein-act the scenes they see on the screen. And if they did why ban the film? People who cause death by dangerous driving we don’t ban cars there is no public out cry against car makers. No we take the person who has killed and put them in prison.

No wars have ever been fought over a movie. But we take the bible and 100s of wars, crimes and acts of violence have. Have we banned the bible? No. 1000s of people die due to what is contained in the pages every year they die. Unspeakable acts of evil are carried out because of it every day. Yet still it is available in schools, hospitals , hotels and libraries for free. If we take the moral high ground over one we must take it over the other.

There is a view that shielding the public from violent games and films is for their protection. But books aren’t held up to such scrutiny. And do you know why? Because of this lofty ideal and damn right insulating view : that people who read are intelligent enough to separate fact from fiction. Yet again most people who are serial killer we read about or see in the press are highly intelligent avid readers. After all Mark Chapman had a copy of catcher in the rye in his pocket when he Shot Lennon. Certain things are banned for good reason, but things where no one gets hurt and it is all above board? Is that just?

Censorship now days, removes knowledge. You remove knowledge you remove reason, and questioning. Remove them we end up as mindless drones falling in line and watching what ever sanitised nonsense they put on tv.

Taking offence is a hobby now days taken up by pseudo left wingers and right wingers. We could run it as democracy if you are offended by something I like then we can ban that but so longs there is something you like I find offensive I can have that banned too . I’ve got the right to call you a cunt and you got the right to call me a cunt . Sure you can not like it and same goes for me but if you want to take that right away in the 21st century after all the progress we have made for good in the most. If you want to remove my right to say it then quite frankly you are a cunt.