Dude, Bedbugs are terrifying little monsters. They’ve seemingly always been around, but in recent years have re-emerged as a threat and spawned a whole bunch of new businesses, late-night TV jokes, and bouts of paranoia.
Ben H. Winters, the clever author behind “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,” ventures away from literary mash-ups in his latest work, “Bedbugs.” This book is a straight-up horror novel that manages to take this insect of terror and weave it into a novel that brings to mind both “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.”
I know those are lofty comparisons, but I’m serious.
In this very New York story, married couple Susan and Alex Wendt decide to move themselves (and their 4 year old daughter) into a new apartment – one that seems almost too good to be believed. Their landlady is an older woman who broke the house into two apartments after her husband’s death, so the two-story apartment in a brownstone is a deal the Wendt’s can’t not snap up. Soon after they move in, however, things get weird for Susan. Susan is soon convinced her new home is infested with bedbugs, though no one but her gets bitten or notices these things at all. An exterminator dubs the place free and clear, but Susan’s mind can’t rest. Soon, what began as a question of “bugs or no bugs” spirals into a tornado of doubt, madness, suspicion, death, and potentially even evil spirits.
Is Susan crazy, or are all these things really happening?
If she’s not crazy, how do you stop an infestation of demonic bugs?
S#7T gets real serious, real fast.
I assumed, when I got my review copy of this book, that it’d be smart and a little scary and probably quite funny. I was not expecting it to be such a great thrill ride. “Bedbugs” has some great characters, some terrifying moments, and will have your brain spinning with what’s actually going on in the end.
good great read. I hope it gets a lot of play/press in the upcoming fall (read: Halloween) season.
The novel charts a U.N. worker’s accounts of oral histories of a decade-long zombie war. The movie, according to bloggers who saw the press release, will take place as the zombie world war is breaking out when there is still time to stop it — completely different from the premise — and the timing — of the book.
There had been reports that this atypical monster tale would certainly be a challenge to put into film. Paramont’s seeming solution? As the AV Club sees it, “Make a typical zombie movie anyway.”
Movies.com quotes the press release as explaining the film this way: “The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.”
Max Brooks is a clever, clever dude. After arriving on the literary scene with a book I still hold dear to my heart, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” he could have so easily become a one-trick pony writing zombie books that surely would have grown more lame over time.
Instead, he produced a masterpiece.
I’m not being facetious or heaping undeserved praise – “World War Z” is that good. It’s a book that rises above the gimmick that might make someone purchase it, and transcends genres.
It’s not a zombie book, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.
Basically, human beings survived the zombie plague. Many people died, and the world is in shambles, but in the tradition of humanity rebuilding has begun and people are starting to look forward.
Enter a young man with a tape recorder who asks them to look back.
The pages of “World War Z” do not read like an action-packed Hollywood zombie movie. That’s honestly what I was expecting, especially after hearing that Brad Pitt is attached to the film project. Instead, it’s a thoughtful and at-times touching commentary on the way this world we live in works.
From regular housewives to the Vice President of the United States, the accounts in this book are told from first-person perspectives. These are the stories of the people who survived the zombie plague, for one reason or another. After a few pages, you forget that you’re reading a book about zombies and start reading a book about humanity.
Honestly, more so than any horror novel I’ve read, “World War Z” reminded me of the play “The Laramie Project.” In the wake of the brutal attack and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepherd, a New York theater company went to Laramie, Wyoming (where the attack happened and which became a media circus almost immediately afterward) and turned on their tape recorders to let the citizens of the town talk about what happened. Those conversations became an honest, unflinching, award-winning, world-renowned play.
One of the most touching stories in the book is that of Christina Eliopolis, a pilot. When her plane goes down and she;s the only survivor, she has to make her way through treacherous areas to where a rescue helicopter will come get her. She does this with the aid of a Skywatcher named “Mets.” The whole storyline struck me as wonderfully Hitchcock-y, and it’s one of the things I hold dearest about the entire book.
At the end of the day, there are few heroes and few villains. There’s the Queen of England insisting on staying at Windsor when she could have easily gone somewhere much safer. There are the men and women of the special canine squad. There are politicians and astronauts and soldiers and priests and kids. Simply, there are people who make choices for various reasons.
As one man, who made a fortune off a new drug that was supposed to cure rabies (which the zombie outbreak was originally thought to be) says: “What, you’d have rather we told people the truth? That it wasn’t a new strain of rabies but a mysterious uber-plague that reanimated the dead?”
The scariest thing about this book isn’t the zombies.
It’s the fact that were you to replace zombies with some other more “realistic” threat, this book is absolutely believable. The squabbling, the nations feuding amongst themselves, the cruelty of common people – it’s all disturbing.
Because without zombies, this wouldn’t be far from non-fiction.
[Note: Apparently there's an audio book of "World War Z" read by a full cast that includes Mark Hamil, John Turturro, Henry Rollins, and Alan Alda. I'm so there.]
There, I said it. It’s out in the open.
Now, forget it. It’s not important.
Smartly, upon the original publication of this novel, Hill did his best to distance himself from his uber-famous father, in an attempt to to be judged on his own merits. The success of “Heart-Shaped Box” outed him to the literary world, but it’s all good now. He’s recognized as a talented writer regardless of his famous lineage, and “Heart-Shaped Box” is one of the most delightful books I’ve read in a while.
I loved it. I was sad to be done with it.
The book follows the adventures of fifty-three year old heavy metal superstar Judas “Jude” Coyne. (Imagine an Alice Cooper figure, if you will, or perhaps Ozzy Ozbourne from a few years ago.)
A collector of twisted and macabre items, Jude buys a ghost on an internet auction site, and from there the novel takes off like a rocket. Turns out, the seller of the ghost has an agenda against Jude, and plans to torture him via a ghost with hypnotic abilities. The ghost has been sent to make Jude kill himself, and everyone around him. With his goth girlfriend Georgia (and two loyal and ass-kicking dogs) in tow, Jude is followed by this ghost from New York to Florida to Louisiana in a road trip from hell.
The action is fast and furious, and there’s plenty of violence. There are chase scenes, and car accidents, and guns, and knives, and sex, and otherworldly things going on all over the place. Truly, there’s not a dull moment to be found within the pages of this book.
The strongest aspect of the novel are our central duo. Jude and Georgia are a wonderfully cranky pair, and you truly care what happens to them as they race across the country, choosing flight over fight as long as they can. They fight and banter and care about each other the whole time. More than just a horror story, it’s a love story. Also, it has aspects of a redemption story.
Most of all, it’s a modern fable – with the moral being “Be damn careful what you wish for, you just might get it. And then some.”
Reading the book is like watching a really thrilling movie. In fact, this would be a fantastic film. I’m honestly surprised no one’s picked it up yet. There’s a “Heart Shaped Box” film in development on IMDB, but no details are given, so who knows if it’s this book or something else. (Personally, I’m seeing Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood, but that’s just me. And also probably totally influenced by how great I thought “The Wrestler” was.)
“Heart-Shaped Box” isn’t a life-changing book, or even one that I might read again. (Now that I know how it ends, it wouldn’t be the same on a second read.) However, while I was reading it, I was riveted, entertained, and I really cared. What more can a reader ask for?
I recommend it.
If you took the innocence of the southern children of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and mixed in Macauley Culkin’s little monster of a character from “The Good Son,” then stir in a hefty dose of dysfunctional families, then topped that all off with a heavy frosting of hallucinatory visions and a sprinkling of cruelty to small creatures, you’d have a pretty good idea of what Douglas Clegg’s “Neverland” is like.
Which is not to say it’s bad, just that there’s a lot going on.
For our hero Beau, summers equal one thing: boring family getaways to Gull Island. His family is joined by his Aunt and Uncle, and off the whole gang goes to the island (which is really a peninsula) to an old house where their grandmother lives.
Beau’s options for fun are limited. His parents, along with his aunt and uncle, fight all the time. His Grandmother is wacky and completing her memoirs. His little brother is an infant, and his two sisters are preteens and uninteresting to him. There’s also an islander hired to nanny for the children, who simply rather not be there. His only real option for a summer friend is his cousin Sumter, a strange boy who dresses immaculately, is far too attached to a teddy bear, and seems to rub everyone the wrong way.
Things become interesting when Beau follows Sumter out to a shed in the woods – which Sumter calls “Neverland.” There, Sumter is hiding something dangerous – and her name is Lucy. From there, things get gory and twisted and all kinds of deadly. Animals get tortured, things are stolen, visions are had, secrets are told, and blood is spilled.
Everything builds and builds to a climax that is a little disappointing. After sticking by Beau’s side through the entire story, the ending realization (though cool) isn’t really all that mind-blowing. It’s certainly not a new device in literature.
Truly, that would be my only real complaint about the book. (Though I could have used a little less of the fighting parents. We get it. The relationship between your two sets of parents is intense. Noted. Move on.)
Certain passages are beautifully written, and there are really neat things happening within these pages. For example, I found the entire character of Zinnia to be fascinating, and wish there had been more of her. (Granted, having completed the book, I now see why there couldn’t be, but nonetheless.) Beau is an effective narrator, as he’s never painted too broadly as the “good” kid. He messes up, he breaks things, he has a temper – he’s a real kid. Which helps the audience relate more to him than if he was some saintly schoolboy.
There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of this book about youth and innocence versus grown-ups and guilt, but the key point here is that at the end of the day, evil knows no age range.
The imaginations of children are powerful things.
They can even turn an abandoned shed into “Neverland.”
Check out the book trailer:
Having read the book, I now know exactly what he meant.
As good of a film as “Psycho” is (and yes, it’s an amazing one) it owes everything to the original novel. Bloch’s “Psycho” laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most revered movies of all time – as well as for a string of less-successful sequels, in both novel and film form.
Hitchcock was smart enough to know a good thing when he read it.
Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates is a chilling cinematic monster, but Bloch’s novel delves deeper into the psyche of Norman Bates, as well as more into his backstory. The death of Mother Bates isn’t heavily focused on in the film, but her living domination of her awkward son, as well as her death and “second life” are brought to startling life here. We also get glimpses into his thoughts, and the struggle taking place in him between the personalities trying to take over his mind. In addition, the reader gets to know more about Mary Crane (the character played by Janet Leigh in the film) as well as the characters of Sam Loomis and Lila Crane, who are pretty one-note in the movie.
Probably the biggest difference between the book and the movie is the description of Norman Bates himself. In the novel, Norman is an overweight middle aged man who drinks when he’s under pressure. As you can see in the still below, the film Norman (though still awkward and incredibly creepy) was more normal, and dare I say – gasp – attractive? (My husband disagrees with me on the “attractive” part, and says Norman Bates is just creepy all-around.)
The other big difference involves a certain infamous shower scene, but… I’ll stop there and make you read it for yourselves.
Though I’m a lifelong fan of the movie, I have to say I think I enjoyed the book even more. It felt like a richer experience. Much like the Stanley Kubrick version of “The Shining,” Hitchcock’s stamp is so evident on the film that sometimes the actual story gets lost in the shuffle. Reading the novel made me pay attention to people and events, and I saw the story in a slightly different way.
(Isn’t it horrifying to know that “Psycho” was originally inspired by Ed Gein, who in 1957 was arrested for three murders, as well as for grave-robbing? When the police searched his house, they found loads of body parts and other horrifying paraphanelia. Gein also served as the inspiration for Leatherface, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Ew.)
Sometimes the line between real horror and fiction horror is thin, and blurry.
To end this post happily, I was delighted to hear that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be playing the score to Psycho along with a showing of the film on November 19th as part of their “Friday Night at the Movies” series. Imagine hearing the famous shower scene music played by a live orchestra! Shazam!
I’ve read a lot of horror literature in my life, and yet very little of it truly terrified me.
Monsters and demons and werewolves and vampires don’t really scare me. While fascinating and wonderful to create stories around, there isn’t much shock value left in them, as far as I’m concerned.
“House of Leaves” is, hands down, the scariest book I’ve ever read.
Reading it reminded me of the first time I saw “The Blair Witch Project,” before it was revealed that it was actually a movie with actors. At the time, fooled by hype and that danged Sci-fi channel “special,” I went into “..Blair Witch..” thinking I was seeing a documentary about some people who were really and truly killed by mysterious tent-rattling weirdness in the woods, and it wrecked me.
(Then two days later, I saw Heather and Josh from the movie on Regis and Kathie Lee, and the magic was gone…but far be it for me to digress from the topic at hand.)
Within “House of Leaves” there’s a lot going on.
You first have the narrative of Johnny Truant, the tattoo-parlor worker who moves into an apartment vacated by the recent death of a mysterious old man. In the apartment, Truant finds a collection of papers – a scholarly exploration of an underground documentary called “The Navidson Record.” Within these papers, we get a detailed analysis of said documentary – which is about Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Will Navidson and his wife and children leaving their fast-paced lives behind to move into a country house. Upon moving into the house, they realize things are weird. As in, the house is moving around them. Walls and doors literally appear and move in the blink of an eye right around the inhabitants of the house. One door in particular leads to a hallway that sometimes is the size of a closet, and sometimes stretches for imperceptible miles.
I’ll stop with the plot synopsis here, but please note it goes so much darker and deeper than that. You’re going to have to read it for yourselves, though. I refuse to spoil this amazing book for anyone. Weird things happen – then weirder things happen. It’s kind of relentless – for just as you think there’s a resolution, something else happens. The Navidson and Truant storylines basically batter the reader until you’re just plain scared.
Mark Danielewski is out-of-this-world as a writer. “House of Leaves” isn’t a plain, narrative-driven, straightforward novel. One review I read called it an experimental novel, which I think might be the only way to explain the way these pages work.
The text of Truant’s narrative and the Navidson papers often exist on the same page. There are copious footnotes, some of which are nonsensical. Also, at some occasions you literally have to hold the book upside down to read. There are also pages that contain only one or two words.
Owing to it’s clever layout, it’s far from being an easy read. However, all the effort is completely worth it.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a book.
It’s a nightmare book.
When you plan to read a book titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you’re usually doing it with the full realization that there will be cheese, copious amounts of cheese. Combine the title with the fact that this book only hit my admittedly limited literary radar – I read at a near glacial speed – due to the fact that the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, wrote… or rather co-wrote (sorry about that, Ms. Austen) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I enjoyed immensely. Nothing dissuaded this anticipation of cheese as I began to read the introduction. Starting in the modern day, the introduction is actually a part of the story and culminates in a punchline, that being the author of the introduction, that lends the remainder of the book a level of verisimilitude. All good so far, now bring on the tongue-in-cheek historical references with thinly veiled wedges of Vampiric gore.
Then the book turns completely epistolary. This isn’t a tale told strictly from Mr. Lincoln’s point-of-view, but rather written by an author who has come into possession of the missing journals of our erstwhile President. It is presented as an historical account of the secret life of Abraham Lincoln, a moody depressive – a piece of historical accuracy; many believe that had he lived today Lincoln would have been diagnosed with clinical depression if not as a manic depressive. His vendetta against Vampire-kind is set up pretty early on and does not come as much of a surprise. What does come as a surprise is how seriously the subject is presented. The cheese, quite simply, is not there.
Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be one of the most researched and documented human beings on the planet. Arguably one of the greatest United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln’s life has been dissected to such a degree that you would think there was little space left to fit Vampires. However, Mr. Grahame-Smith does have one thing going in his favour. Sadly, Mr. Lincoln’s life was highlighted by a series of tragedies. As was common of the day-and-age in which he lived, there were many deaths around him. From his grandfather and namesake’s ambush and brutal murder 23 years before Lincoln was born, through the deaths of his older sister; his mother; his first recorded romantic interest, Ann Rutledge; and two of his four sons; all becomes fodder for the secret life Lincoln would lead.
There’s also a level of cohesion between the novel and actual history when it comes to the topic of slavery. Historical documentation makes it very clear that Abraham Lincoln was in no way a single-minded champion of the abolishment of slavery for the purpose of establishing equal rights. His personal beliefs were clear on the matter, he wrote in a letter to his friend, Joshua Speed (who plays a prominent role in the novel):
As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.”
However, the Emancipation Proclamation itself was a War Measure meant to cripple the economy of states comprising the Confederacy. There are strong ties between the existence of Vampires in America and slavery, and it is Lincoln’s almost pathological hatred of Vampires that provides further support for his distaste of slavery while simultaneously relegating slavery to the background until its confrontation becomes necessary for victory.
The only real disappointment for me was the somewhat “Deus Ex Machina” nature of the Vampire Henry and his “Union”. It seemed somewhat lazy of Grahame-Smith to not provide Lincoln with more opportunities to control his destiny. There were so many moments in the novel that he could have easily shaped more of a hero out of Lincoln. Instead he depicted him as a tool of some greater, secret struggle Lincoln could never have hoped to have fought and won on his own.
Also, if you’re looking for a book with a bit of scare, this isn’t it. The scariest parts of the book fall somewhere between the vivid, sometimes gory dreams Lincoln has and the real-life recollections of the battlefield conditions of the Civil War. Overall Grahame-Smith did an admirable job of providing an imaginary historical account while retaining probability and Abraham Lincoln’s – probably wildly historically inaccurate – friendship with a certain literary contemporary is a well-played shot of brilliance. Your mileage may vary regarding the ending, you’ll either see it coming a mile away or it will catch you as a surprise. I quite enjoyed the ending, despite myself.
Bram Stoker may have been the one to make vampires a hot commodity in the entertainment world, but “Dracula’s Guest” shows many pieces (from before and after Stoker’s publication) that help enhance what we “know” about vampires.
From the earliest mentions of vampires, related in Hungarian folklore, to the turn of the 20th century, there have always been vampire stories.
People love a good villain, and what’s better than a blood-sucker, right?
Michael Sims, who edited the collection, is clearly a horror fan. His introduction is charming and relates his teenage obsession with all things goth. He’s hands-down the perfect dude to have assembled a compilation like this one.
The 22 pieces in the collection cover a lot of ground.
Some literary big-shots appear. Tolstoy contributes a surprisingly enthralling piece. I say “surprisingly” because I’m admittedly not a fan of his work thus far. However, the story he contributes is creepy and keeps the action moving.
A piece by Lord Byron appears, as does a famous piece by Byron’s personal physician, Dr. John Polidori. (To those not in love with vampires, Polidori wrote a short story – “The Vampyre” – that is said to have been inspired by Byron, and also to have inspired Bram Stoker when it came time to write “Dracula.”)
There are also lots of names here that likely won’t ring a bell at all. M.R. James, Anne Crawford, Augustus Hare, and many others turn in exciting pieces, and their names were unfamiliar to me prior to this collection.
(Interesting note: If the name James Malcolm Rymer doesn’t sound familiar, maybe his most famous creation will – Sweeney Todd. The writer of many pulp novels, he’s been nearly forgotten now, except for the demon barber he once wrote the original story about.)
The two stories I enjoyed the most, in fact, were written by authors I’ve never heard of.
The first, which is “attributed to Johann Ludwig Tieck,” is called “Wake not the Dead.” It’s the story of a man who is married to a fine woman, but falls for another woman. When the second woman dies, he makes a bargain with an old man to have her brought back to life, and she promptly wrecks him and everything in his life. Truly terrifying at moments, it reminded me a lot of an Edgar Allen Poe story.
The second is an odd piece called “Good Lady Ducayne.” In the story, a poor young girl agrees to become a companion to a wealthy older lady. She’s whisked away to the beautiful countryside, paid well, and has very little work to do. However, soon her failing health leaves those around her wondering what’s happening to her – as well as why the last two companion girls died. Though it’s more of a mystery than a horror tile, it’s engrossing and features a lead character you truly care about.
There are plenty of awesome moments within this book. For example, Emily Gerard’s “Death and Burial – Vampires and Were-Wolves” is a dazzling collection of Romanian funeral traditions, all of which I’m sure are now completely out of date. Still, it’s interesting to consider how exhausting having someone die must have been back in the day.
For example, a funeral feast (called a pomeana) is held after the ceremony…“All the favorite dishes of the dead man are served at this banquet, and each guest receives a cake, a jug of wine, and a wax candle in his memory. Similar pomeanas are repeated after a fortnight, six weeks, and on each anniversary of the death for the next seven years.”
(Can you imagine? I can’t even remember to send birthday cards half the time – to the living.)
The grand finale of the collection is the title piece, written by Mr. Stoker himself. Though it bears similarities to “Dracula,” it stands alone as an exciting story of a man being pursued through the woods by something unknown.
A few of the pieces are a little dry and overwrought (hello, Victorian Literature), however the majority are worth your time. Especially if you’re a horror fan. If you’re a vampire person, I think it’s a must-read.
(Though the collection is beautiful, I’m sure many of the pieces could be found on Project Gutenberg, FYI.)
Junk Food for the brain, served with a side of creepy – “You’ve been Warned” by James Patterson & Howard Roughan
He was right on all counts.
James Patterson is a popular dude. With over 65 books to his name, and 19 New York Times Bestsellers under his belt, he’s basically a writing machine.
With success come detractors. Stephen King called him a “terrible writer” of “dopey thrillers.”
Stephen King isn’t wrong.
The book is, indeed, a “dopey thriller.” There’s nothing particularly elegant about the way it’s written. If you’ve read any Dan Brown novels, you know what I mean. It’s action-packed and full of twists, but as a piece of literature, it falls flat.
Which really doesn’t matter.
It’s junk food for the brain. It’s pure candy.
Look, I’m an admitted book snob – but there’s a lot to be said for a book that you don’t have to think about. Sometimes, I want to read purely for entertainment, and maybe for distraction. Patterson, like my beloved Dan Brown, knocks that out of the park. (And Mr. Roughan, too – though I feel like Patterson is such a machine, the co-authors place is hit or miss in all this.)
The action in “You’ve been Warned” kicks off strong on page one and never stops until the end
Kristin, our heroine, is a gorgeous 26 year old photographer who is having an affair with the married man she nannies for. Good guys and good and bad guys are bad. Kristin is our narrator, so we like her. The married man’s wife is a snob, so we hate her. Rules, established.
One day, while walking past a hotel, Kristin sees four bodybags being hauled out of a building.
But it was actually just a dream.
A few days later, in real life, she walks past the same hotel and sees the same four bodybags.
From there, things just get weirder. Being aA photographer, she snaps pictures of the bodybags – which turn out transparent in her photos. Though her Dad has been dead for years, he appears on a streetcorner. She’s being tailed by a man with a ponytail. The mean wife is trying to fix her up with a guy. It’s all craziness.
I will give Patterson & Roughan some props for the ending, which doesn’t back down from the craziness of the book. It’s a weird little book, and the ending is weird. There’s no “It was all a horrible dream” or “Everyone was playing a joke on you” rationalization. It’s utterly irrational, in fact. That is precisely what makes it so great.
I would recommend this book for train rides and long flights. It’s addicting stuff.