Archive for February, 2014

I think my main motivation for reading this book was to feel more in the know whenever I come across a Cujo reference. Plus I am a big fan of Stephen King. I read four of his books last year (including the mammoth ‘It’) and countless short stories, but I think Cujo is my favorite work of his I’ve read. I feel really bad saying that, because he mentions in his book ‘On Writing’ that he was really heavy into drugs while writing it. But no, there’s no getting around it, this is a great book.

For those not in the know, here’s the blurb:

A big, friendly dog chases a rabbit into a hidden underground cave–and stirs a sleeping evil crueler than death itself. A terrified four-year-old boy sees his bedroom closet door swing open untouched by human hands, and screams at the unholy red eyes gleaming in the darkness. The little Maine town of Castle Rock is about to be invaded by the most hideous menace ever to savage the flesh and devour the mind.

There’s something smooth about the writing that made it more enjoyable than his other books (though they’re enjoyable too). I’ve come across some people who hate it. The primary complaints seem to be the sad moment at the end of the book (no spoilers shall be given – go read it if you want to know), and the slow pacing.

To be honest I didn’t mind the slow pacing. There aren’t as many deaths in this book as I’m used to in a Stephen King novel, but the tension before each one is ramped up. This is a book of tension rather than gore and blood splatter (though being Stephen King there is a fair bit of that too). I think I actually preferred the tense approach. It made the book more realistic than some of his others, and thus more terrifying.

And for the sad ending, I have nothing against that. Sometimes books don’t end happy, even when we want them to. It added to the realism as well. That moment will stay with me, and that’s what good books should do.

The most horrifying thing about the book is that there’s no black and white bad guys. In ‘It’ we have ‘It the monster’, in ‘The regulators’ another monster ‘Tak’ and in ‘Cycle of the Werewolf’ we have funnily enough a werewolf. In Cujo there’s no big bad behind all the destruction. There’s just normal people, some nice, some nasty, and a sick dog.

You end up feeling sorry for Cujo, just like you do the other characters. I found it an interesting book. Stephen King reminds us that we don’t need monsters to terrorize us. There are things in the world we live in that are just as scary.

My opinion: If you like Stephen King and don’t mind sad endings then try this out. Just bear in mind that the pace is slower than a usual Stephen King novel. Here’s the link to more reviews on this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11598.Cujo

I think this book gets my vote for creepiest idea I’ve ever read. More than anything that’s because some of the attitudes in the book are very present in today’s society. I’ll let you read the blurb before I carry on:

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

Most of the chapters begin with a quote, and a scary amount of them are from recent news headlines. There was a survey not so long ago on british teenagers. News stations picked up the results and spread them everywhere. For a good few months I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about the state of british youth. ‘Teenagers are yobs’ the headlines said, and the newscasters went on to say that the survey had found most of british teenagers to have committed an act of violence. I forget the percentage, but it was something huge like 80 or 90 percent of teenagers. The newscasters then went on in dramatic voices discussing how this was a terrible generation, the world was doomed, cheery stuff like that.

Scary stuff huh? Not really. I don’t like accepting facts at face value, so I dug a little deeper. You want to know what the question all those ‘violent’ teenagers had answered yes to? It was this:

Have you ever felt angry after being provoked by someone?

Nothing about violence, just did you feel angry. Really I’ve surprised the percentage isn’t higher. We have some pretty laid back teens that they don’t even feel a little angry after being provoked.

Not long after I studied the Rwandan genocide at school. There are certain stages a culture must go through before it is able to alienate and kill a group of people like that. Reading through them I found a scary amount could be applied to how society treats teenagers:

1. CLASSIFICATION: Simple categorising: teenagers. We see them as different from other groups.

2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give them names and symbols or distinguish them by dress or color. Such as teens, and some less savory names for teenagers. And I’m sure some people have a mind’s eye picture of what teenagers look like: hoodies or skimpy clothing.

3. DEHUMANIZATION: This is where things like the above study comes in. “They aren’t like us, they’re violent yobs.”

4. ORGANIZATION: Not so much for the killing front, but I’m sure everyone has heard adults group together and talk about the state of todays youth. A television campaign was launched to counteract the negative stereotypes of teenagers when people on several social networking sites grouped together to talk about the ‘teenage problem.’ They described teenagers as ‘animals’ and ‘yobs.’ Some even suggested that they needed to be locked up or killed.

5. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive groups apart by broadcasting hate speech and propaganda. See the above study.

6. PREPARATION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Rights are denied, etc. Think about that a moment. When I was a teenager most shops treated me terribly. Employees would serve other people first even if I was in front of them, staff would follow me around, glaring at me as if I was doing something wrong just by existing. Most shops had signs on the windows, and a lot still do a decade later. These signs said ‘no more than one school child at a time,’ and various variations of that. Where have we seen signs like them before? How about the signs around the second world war saying ‘no jews,’ or ‘no colored.’ Mothers used to hurry their children away from me. One of my younger sisters hated going into shops as a teenager because she was shy and the adults were always rude toward her, even shouting when she hadn’t done anything wrong. They would make her cry.

7. EXTERMINATION. We haven’t reached this stage yet. There are news reports of teenagers killed by adults, but none on a genocide scale that I know of.

I’d say we’ve been hovering between stages 3 and 6 the past decade. Sometimes like with the yob incident the whole country seems to jump up to stage 5 and 6. It took a very visible advertising campaign using those same news stations to diffuse that situation. I’ve met quite a few people with stage 6 mindset, but thankfully they seem to be unorganised.

Unwind takes this type of mindset and pushes it further. The premise is that a war between pro lifes and pro choices ended in a truce. Abortion is illegal, but between the ages of 13 and 18 the parents or guardians can sign up their kid to be unwound. When I first started reading it I comforted myself with the idea that something like this could never happen, but I’ve read book two now and the more you read the more realistic it seems to become.

Some people hate teenagers, there’s no denying that. And if this did happen then it would be difficult to undo. In a world where organ transplants are commonplace, and not much can kill you except old age, it would take a lot to go back.

One of the biggest attitudes in the book it ‘someone elses problem.’ While babies can’t be aborted, they can be left on another’s doorstep for them to raise. The attitudes of some of the adults reminded me of stories of jews in world war two. Some viewed runaway unwinds as inhuman, and there is a lot of propaganda to support this. Even the ones that didn’t seem to support unwinding didn’t want to be involved and turned their backs on them. The few that helped did it in secret, and it’s very visible that they are going against the core of society at cost to themselves.

This is one of those books that stays with you, and makes you think differently about the world. Go read it.

And in case you still aren’t convinced, check out more reviews on this book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/764347.Unwind

This one is another graphic novel, but don’t walk away if that’s not your cup of tea, you might surprise yourself. I’m very picky about which graphic novels I read because I don’t usually enjoy them as much as books. For me reading a graphic novel is like eating desert, it’s fun, but it doesn’t fill you up like books can. This one is worth a try.

And that’s the best thing about this graphic novel, you can try before you buy. Strictly speaking you don’t even need to buy, it depends on how much you want to support the wonderful artist / author Ashley Cope. Ashley very generously puts all her pages for this series (what’s in the book and much more) on a website for everyone to read for free. Here’s the link: http://www.casualvillain.com/Unsounded/

Unsounded is a lot deeper than other graphic novels I’ve come across. The world is rich and the characters are multilayered, and they grow as time goes by. Sette, one of the main characters has come such a long way from her first pages to the latest ones on the website. There are twists and so many things to discover as they go through their journey, and still more mysteries ahead. And the art is amazing!

Here, have a look at the cover as one small example:

Unsounded - Volume 1: The Zombie & The Brat

Nice, right? And believe it or not the art inside is actually better! Ashley draws these vibrant backgrounds, and she has this great skill to make the characters look so expressive. I have no idea how she does that for zombie Duane since his face is covered by that hood so much, but somehow she manages it.

Here’s the blurb:

Daughter of the Lord of Thieves, Sette Frummagem is on a mission, and she’ll lie, cheat, and steal to make sure it’s a success (she’ll lie, cheat, and steal anyway). Condemned to aid her in her rotten endeavours is a rotten corpse who seems oddly talented with the supernatural, and oddly not laying motionless in the dirt.

The road is long and no one is what they seem. Never trust a thief, and never trust anyone who won’t let you look into their eyes.

It’s funny, tragic, and heart pounding in all the right places. Seriously, this comic has so many feels it’s impossible to accurately describe them all in one short review. Ashley’s world building is immense, and her plotting in well thought through. Reading some of the comments on the site gives you a good picture. You have all these people predicting what’s going to happen next, and because of her awesome foreshadowing some actually get it right.

They discuss little bits of the world introduced through the comic like it’s some kind of religion. And the world is so thought through that you do pick things up, like the rules for prymary, or the caste system. One of the big ongoing mysteries (there are a few, and some wrapped up once you get to the latest pages) is how Duane is present mentally when all the other zombies seem to be more akin to the unthinking things we see on horror movies. We’ve had some clues, and there are several ongoing theories. People reference lines and emphasis that happened in the comic to try to work things out, and this comic is reliable enough that you can do that.

My verdict: go along to the site linked above and try the first few pages. It starts out as an adventure through a strange land with two hilariously incompatible comrades, both with mysteries we get to find out, and from there it gets richer and richer.

If you want to know what other people are saying about this comic follow this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17372154-unsounded—volume-1

A few months ago I reviewed ‘Anna Dressed in Blood.’ Here’s the review for those that missed it: http://wp.me/p3Wf30-1l

I gave it five stars, it was that good. So of course when I heard about the sequel I had to read that too. Girl of nightmares wasn’t quite as good as the first book, but it was a decent enough book. What I liked about the first book is that Anna is genuinely scary at times. Too many times in paranormal romances the supernatural guy or girl seems like a normal if overdramatic brooding teenager. Anna doesn’t really brood that much, even though she has a lot to brood about: being dead for one thing, being made to pull people apart against her will, and the horrible event that led to her being how she is (revealed in the first book).

My first problem with the second book is that there isn’t much Anna in it. For most of the book she’s only there in bits and pieces. Now this wouldn’t be as much of a issue if our main character Cas had more direction, which leads us to my second problem with the book: Cas wanted to find Anna, sure, but he kind of meandered about for most of the book. He was all angst ridden and not doing much.

I think it would have been better if he’d had more of a journey to go on to get Anna back. Instead most of the book is him being angsty and asking people for clues, them saying ‘there’s no way,’ repeat a few times, and then out of the blue a clue lands in his lap, and he goes on a simple trip and gets his answers without much struggle. It was too easy. There’s some friend issues to deal with as conflict, but it didn’t take my mind off the lack of conflict in his journey to find a way to get Anna back.

Now after he finds his answers he gets conflict in bucketfuls . That’s where things got really interesting. The first chunk of the book wasn’t too bad, but the last chunk was awesome. The conflict was back and it was huge: life or death, and even bigger than that. There’s this heartbreaking decision he has to make near the end that had me on the edge of my seat.

My verdict is if you liked the first one, read the second. It isn’t as interesting, but does get better toward the end. And it has the same lovable characters that made the first book so enjoyable.

In case you want to read more reviews on this book follow the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12507214-girl-of-nightmares