I've read a few horror stories in my time, but it's never been a particular favourite genre. Of late, however, I've begun to read a few more and also to collect a few more authors. So maybe it's time to take a brief look at what I've read, mention a few author's I've enjoyed and also highlight some books I've got on my bookshelf awaiting my attention.
While I'm no expert on horror stories, I'll try to break them down in a few groupings; Gothic / classic horror, ghost stories, modern horror and maybe some other specific types if I've got any in that area, e.g. vampire, zombie, etc. So let's start with some of the Classics. This will probably be a relatively short category for me.
"A strange sort of story originally written in 1796. I'm not sure if it's indicative of the time. If you read the preface, it might lead you to believe that the book isn't worth reading. But ultimately, I found it an interesting story, a Gothic novel about forbidden love, rape, murder, incest and with some supernatural elements. It wanders a bit as each person's story is related but at the same time, it moves along quite nicely. I admit that I scrolled over the verses and songs. It definitely is a dark story. Am I glad that I read it? I'll say yes. Judge for yourself if you can find a copy. (3 stars)"
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the easily recognised classics. I found an excellent hard cover edition of this at a book store in Victoria, that unfortunately closed down a few years back. Grafton Books in Oak Bay had so many excellent books. Anyway, I got this in 2008 when I was stationed in Victoria and read it in 2011. I'd seen one or two of the different movie versions, or at least parts of them, so decided I should finally read the book. This was my review
"I'd never read this before and can't say that I actually have ever seen the movie from beginning to end. So I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story and how smoothly it flowed. It was a very quick read and held my attention. I was surprised that the story was actually told for the most part from the perspective of Mr. Utterson, a friend of Dr Jekyll, and that Jekyll and Hyde, for that matter, for the most part are somewhat peripheral to the story. Until the end. On the whole, a very enjoyable story and I highly recommend if you've never read before. (4 stars)"
The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker. Stoker is probably better known for Dracula. At least he is by me. This book was published in 1903 and is probably the book that inspired the various Mummy movies. Now that I've read this, I'll have to try Dracula. This was my review.
"I bought this because one of my Goodreads club members had read it and not really being aware of any others of Bram Stoker's books, besides Dracula, I got a copy to try it out. I was a bit underwhelmed. The story is supposedly the inspiration for today's Mummy movies. Basically, it deals with the acquisition of a number of articles, including a sarcophagus, ancient jewels and many other items from a crypt in The Valley of the Sorcerers in Egypt.
The story starts in London with an attack on the man who possesses the articles, one Abel Trelawny, an attack that leaves him in a coma. A group of people, including Trelawny's daughter, her beau, Mr. Ross others gather to find the reason for the attack and to help if at all possible. The story is Gothic horror but at times the horror is so nebulous as to be unidentifiable.
There is a bit too much theorising and discussion for me at times, and the ending is a bit sudden. Still, to read a story from Bram Stoker that I was totally unaware of until a couple of years ago and to experience his style was worth the read. (3.5 stars)"
"An excellent collection of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, from Dagon, originally published in 1919 to The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, 1943. There are themes throughout, the Old Ones, the area around Arkham, Mass, Miskatonic University, the Cthulu, etc. The stories are creepy, more so than outright terrifying, but they still leave you feeling nervous and chilled. Some are excellent; especially, the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, the Haunter of the Dark and the Thing on the Doorstep. Excellent to be provided the opportunity to explore Lovecraft's worlds and stories under one book. (5 stars)"
Still To Be Read
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I found a copy of this at a local used book store in Cumberland back in February. I liked the copy and, having seen the stage musical and a modern rock adaptation of the book, that being Phantom of the Paradise (1974), I thought it might be a good time to actually read the book, originally published in 1911. If you're not sure what it is about, then this is the synopsis.
"The story of the Phantom of the Opera, a half-crazed musician hiding in the labyrinth of the famous Paris Opera House and creating a number of strange and mysterious events to further the career of a beautiful young singer, is today regarded as one of the most famous of all horror stories: widely mentioned in the same breath as Frankenstein and Dracula. Yet the fame of this novel, first written by the French journalist turned novelist Gaston Leroux, in 1911, is based almost entirely on the various film versions which have been made over the years. Remarkable performances by two actors, Lon Chaney and Claude Rains, helped to make the Phantom an immortal figure. The original book, however, has been largely ignored, rarely in print, and the first edition (in either French or English) is now a collector's item."
The Green Man by Kingsley Amis. I read this back in 2010 and it was my first experience with Kingsley Amis. He wrote it in 1969. Amis isn't normally a horror writer, he writes mysteries, spy novels, fiction, etc. This was an interesting introduction to him. I've since read others by him and enjoyed his unique perspective on life. This is the synopsis of this story.
"Like all good coaching inns, The Green Man is said to boast a resident ghost: Dr Thomas Underhill, a notorious seventeenth-century practitioner of black arts and sexual deviancy. However, the landlord, Maurice Allington, is the sole witness to the renaissance of the malevolent Underhill. Led by an anxious desire to vindicate his sanity, Allington strives to uncover the key to Underhill's satanic powers. All while the skeletons in Allington's own cupboard rattle to get out. (3 stars)"
The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan. Brautigan wrote this in 1974. It's a strange, weird horror story, classified as a Gothic Western. It was quirky enough that it held my attention and I quite enjoyed this story of two cowpokes who are hired to get rid of the ghost/ monster that haunts the Hawkline house. This may not actually fit into the ghost story category very clearly but it doesn't really fit into any other one either. Worth reading. This was my review.
"A book I bought by chance after seeing it in the display cabinet of one of my favourite used book stores. It happened that September was Western genre month so this being a 'gothic western' and liking the cover, I decided to give it a chance. A very easy, flowing read and a quirky interesting story. The gist being that two gunslingers are hired by a young woman to come to Oregon to kill a monster that resides in the ice caves below their house in Oregon. Many, many strange occurrences, which I'll let you discover until the face-to-face meeting with the monster. I liked the two gunslingers, Cameron and Greer, both straight-forward, easy going hitmen; hitmen with standards and ethics. I liked the Hawkline sisters. At times it's almost childish, the story, but it held my interest and I enjoyed it thoroughly. (A solid 3.5 stars)."
The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert. I bought this book in 2013 after the missus and I had watched a BBC adaptation of the book. The show was excellent, with just the right amount of spookiness and tension. The acting was also excellent, with Suranne Jones, Maisie Williams, Tom Ellis and Douglas Henshall, just to name a few. The story is about a family, Jones and Ellis, with their two daughters who move to the north of England to try and rebuild their marriage and recover from the disappearance of their son. It turns out that the house is haunted by the ghosts of the orphans who lived there during the War and by that of the school master, who ruled the house with a strong stick and terrorised the children. He now wants Jones and Ellis' daughters. It was excellent. The book was originally written in 2006. The book wasn't quite as good as the movie, but still a very entertaining read.
"I bought this because I had enjoyed the movie with Daniel Radcliffe. Taking account of the differences between the movie and the original book, I found this to be an intense, well-written horror story. It's a relatively short story but Susan Hill manages to pack an excellent, complete story into the space. She also manages to create a spooky atmosphere very quickly and had me holding my breath as I read it. Not terrifying, but a spooky story with an excellent feeling about it. Loved it. (4 stars)"
I've since begun acquiring other books by Susan Hill, from her mystery series featuring Simon Serrailler, and another ghost story, The Mist in the Mirror. I'm looking forward to that one. This is the synopsis.
"For the last twenty years Sir James Monmouth has journeyed all over the globe in the footsteps of his hero, the great pioneering traveller Conrad Vane. In an effort to learn more about Vane's early life--and his own--Sir James sets off for the remote Kittiscar Hall on a cold and rainy winter night. But he soon begins to feel as though something is warning him away at every turn; there are the intense feelings of being watched and the strange apparitions of a sad little boy.
And as he learns more about his hero's past, he discovers that they are only the beginning, for Kittiscar Hall is hiding terrible secret that will bind their lives together in ways he could never have imagined."
"I expected a bit more from this story, probably because of some of the write-ups that I read about it and that indicated how it influenced other writers, such as Stephen King, etc. However, having said that, I enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House. I've seen both movie adaptations and I tended to picture Theodora as Claire Bloom and Eleanor as Julie Harris. The book was suspenseful, not horrific at all. You could see the mental changes or the impact of the house on Eleanor as the story progresses. There was definitely tension and the story was well-paced. I'm glad I finally have read it, will definitely have to see the 1963 movie again to compare. A solid 3.5 stars for me."
We Have always Live in the Castle was written in 1962 and, while it doesn't fall into the category of ghost stories, it was still an excellent ghost story. I think I preferred it to Hill House, but in all fairness, I had no movie to compare it to.
Still to read from Shirley Jackson is her 1954 book, The Bird's Nest. This is the synopsis.
"Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girl—but four separate, self-destructive personalities. The Bird’s Nest, Jackson’s third novel, develops hallmarks of the horror master’s most unsettling work: tormented heroines, riveting familial mysteries, and a disquieting vision inside the human mind."
1. Grave Sight (2005);
2. Grave Surprise (2006);
3. An Ice Cold Grave (2007); and
4. Grave Secret (2009)
I've read all but Grave Secret. I think I've been holding onto it because it's the last in the series.
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. In this version of the vampire saga, the vampires try to take over New York. Vampirism is kind of a virus which starts with an aeroplane that arrives at La Guardia and everybody on board appears to be dead. It's a creepy story, the first in a trilogy. It also became a popular TV miniseries on FX. I gave the first book 3 stars. Not the best ever story but thrilling and filled with action. The three books in the series are -
1. The Strain (2009);
2. The Fall (2010) (currently sitting on my bookshelf awaiting my attention); and
3. The Night Eternal (2011).
1. Blood Price (1991);
2. Blood Trail (1992);
3. Blood Lines (1992);
4. Blood Pact (1993);
5. Blood Debt (1997); and
6. Blood Bank, a short story collection.
I've read the first four books and enjoyed them very much. It features Toronto PI, Vicki Nelson, an ex cop with failing eyesight and her sometimes helpers, Police detective, Mike Celluci and a vampire, Henry Fitzroy. The cases involve supernatural beings and are entertaining and thrilling. The books were also turned into a TV show which was a bit different but also entertaining.
Still to Read
I recently purchased Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, a story that has been turned into movies at least twice, once starring Charlton Heston and more recently, starring Will Smith. This is the synopsis -
"Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left."
The Devil Made Me Do It (aka Demonic possession)
I haven't read too many books in this genre, probably because they tend to downright scare me. One of the classics is William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. I read this when the movie came out. Both scared me silly. I could not read this book downstairs by myself because it gave me the creeps. I think part of the reason is that it's easier to believe in the devil than in zombies and vampires. I also remember the movie terrifying me. I was just finishing high school and went with a friend.. Lots of screaming and nervous laughter throughout. And you should have heard the rest of the audience. Blatty wrote a sequel as well, Legion, which was also excellent, even if not quite as scary as The Exorcist. It was made into a movie as well, becoming Exorcist III. It was more of a detective story with supernatural elements. A few other books that might fit in this category that I've enjoyed or hope to enjoy include some of the following. They may not necessarily be specifically be about demonic possession but they do feature battles between the devil and the forces of good.
The Stand by Stephen King. This could also be classified as an end of the world saga but the main crux of the story is the battle between the forces of evil, led by Randall Flagg, and the forces of good, led by Mother Abagail. It ranks up in my Top Ten all-time books, just a fascinating story. It was also a reasonable TV mini-series.
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. I only recently read this book and thought it was excellent. It was turned into a classic horror film starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. This was my review.
"I've seen the movie a couple of times and I found it was very respectful to this book. The book seemed very familiar but it didn't make it any less interesting. Basically, Rosemary and her husband, Guy, a budding actor, move into the Bramford, an old apartment building in New York. An old friend tells them that the building has a bad history but they move in anyway. Shortly after their arrival, a new acquaintance of Rosemary commits suicide by jumping from her apartment. The young couple make friends with the Castevets, old neighbours on their floor and strange things begin to happen; Guy suddenly becoming successful, Rosemary becoming pregnant (having strange 'dreams' during the sex act), etc. The book has a eerie feel to it, even thought it is told very matter-of-factly and this feeling gets stronger as the book progresses. Excellent story, one you won't really want to put down. Even if you've seen the movie, it's worth reading ."
Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry. It's only recently that I've become aware of Jonathan Maberry's writing. He's a favourite of many of my Goodreads acquaintances. I've been looking for his books and last August I finally located one of his books, Ghost Road Blues, written in 2006 and the first book in the Pine Deep Trilogy. This series also includes; Dead Man's Song (2007) and Bad Moon Rising (2008). The story reminded me both of The Stand and It. Like The Stand, there is a battle between good and evil, represented by 'Bone Man' (good), the spirit of a wandering musician who is blamed for the murders of several Pine Deep children and Ubal Griswold, the actual killer, who Bone Man had fought and vanquished. Years later, the remaining children are now grown up and Ubal Griswold is haunting various townspeople and making them come to his side. This is the making of the battle, killings in the town and the local police and State police and various other people trying to catch and keep the town safe. I did like this story, it had lots of tension and action. Now to find the remaining books.
Werewolves (Where wolf? There wolf!... borrowed from Young Frankenstein)
I've read a few books in this genre. Various of the ones I mentioned previously; the Anita Blake books, Ghost Road Blues and the Sookie Stackhouse books also feature werewolves. I remember reading Gary Brandner's The Howling (1977) when it originally came out. However, it's not a sub-genre I specifically search out. One interesting series I've started recently is The Women of the Otherworld by Canadian writer, Kelley Armstrong. I've read the first two books in this series, both of which feature female werewolf, Elena Michaels, and which were the basis for the popular Bitten series. The two books are Bitten and Stolen. I believe that the follow-on books may feature other women of the Otherworld. There are 13 books in this fantasy series. Time will tell. This was my review of the first book, Bitten.
"I've read a few supernatural series; the Anita Blake books, the Blood Ties books, etc. I'd started watching the TV series that is based on Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series before I read this first book. It was interesting to compare the two. There are differences; different characters, some different story lines, but all in all, both are very interesting.
This story is told in the first person by the only female werewolf in the world, Elena, and she is a woman who has struggled to accept her werewolfiness. She tries to live a normal life in the city, Toronto, but is called back to the Pack's home in the country at Stonehaven when the Pack is threatened by a group of mutts, unpacked werewolves.
The story is slow at times, with Elena's time spent on her trying to discover what it is she actually wants to be. She can be frustrating at times, but the story moves along and the action picks up steadily. I did enjoy the story and I think part of the slowness can be attributed to the fact that I was comparing to the TV series. I enjoyed the story and will find the others in the series and continue to read up and see who the other women in the Otherworld might be. Looking forward to finding out. (3 stars)"
With the success of Night of the Living Dead (1968), a truly terrifying movie, and the follow-on movies and then more recently, the TV series, The Walking Dead, I guess it's not surprising that so many books have come out. There have been so many movies and TV Series featuring zombies, that if I try to name them, I'm sure I'll leave many out. Below are some of the books I've read so far, as well as a few others that I have on my bookshelves awaiting further examination.
The remaining books on my list currently reside on my 'to-be-read' bookshelves. If you like this genre, here are a few more.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. This is the synopsis of this book, a combination of horror and classic fiction.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read."
The Walking Dead Books by Robert Kirkman. I have books 1 and 2 of this series; The Rise of the Governor and The Road to Woodbury. These stories are based on the AMC TV series.
"Police officer Joe Ledger, martial arts expert, self-confessed brutal warrior is scared. The man he's just killed is the same man he killed a week ago. He never expected to see the man again, definitely not alive, and not as part of the recruitment process for the secret government agency the Department for Military Sciences."
It's possible that some of the other books listed below may fall into specific categories. I've listed them as 'other' just for my own laziness. So here you go, some other horror books and/ or authors that I've either read or still await my attention.
Stephen King - King is one of the grand-masters of horror fiction. I read his books voraciously when I first discovered him. I've enjoyed so many; Cujo, The Dead Zone, Salem's Lot, The Shining, Carrie, Christine, Pet Sematary, It, etc. I lost interest a bit when The Dark Half, Dolores Clairbourne, Gregory's Game came out. But, he's got an excellent track record. The Stand is one of my all-time favourite books. The Gunslinger series is excellent. I stopped reading when I stopped reading this last series. Currently I have one on my book shelf, Under the Dome, but I have to admit I'm somewhat intimidated by its size. Do I want to invest in a book that big? I probably will and it may get me back into King's writing.
The Troop and The Deep by Nick Cutter. I've read both of these books by Canadian writer, Nick Cutter. They are quite different and I think I preferred The Troop of the two. I think he's a bit like the David Cronenberg of books, especially with The Troop, where a troop of Boy Scouts accompany their scout master on the annual summer camping trip, this time to a remote island off the coast of Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately, at the same time, an escapee from a government facility, someone who's been experiment on by a virus, also comes to the island. The scout master is infected with the virus and the others must try to survive, not knowing that the military has quarantined the island. The Deep deals with a world-wide virus that is killing off the world's population. A possible antidote is available at a research facility deep in the Pacific Ocean. However the scientists there are slowly going crazy and may be infected with something strange!! Below is my review of The Troop.
"A good, solid horror story in the tradition of Stephen King's earlier books. 5 boys and their scout master leave their town on Prince Edward Island to spend the weekend on a smaller island off the coast. It's to be a scouting adventure weekend, hiking, map reading, etc. Unfortunately for them, another boat lands on the island, bringing an escapee from a lab who is infested with experimental worms. That is the gist of the story; the army and navy are involved in sealing off the island, the boys are isolated, trying to fend off the worms and a psychotic member of their troop. Interesting story, good solid horror. (4 stars)"
Nevermore by Neil Gaiman. This was my first exposure to Neil Gaiman. I have seen the movie version of Stardust, which I enjoyed very much. This book has both horror and fantasy elements. It's an excellent story, tense and interesting. My review is below. \
"My first attempt at reading a Neil Gaiman story. Loved it! My kind of fantasy/ horror story. An interesting quest, an interesting world (London Under) and an interesting concept, using the London Tube system to develop characters. I enjoyed the characters very much, Door, Richard, Hunter, even the villains. I want Gaiman to do a sequel! A strong 4.5 stars. Excellent and will make me read more of his books."
The Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko. This is the first book in Russian writer, Sergei Lukyanenko's Nightwatch hexology. I bought this on a whim in 2011 and enjoyed it very much. I haven't looked for the remaining five books yet, but in time I'm sure I'll check them out as well. This was my review.
"I took a chance on this book, saw it in one of my book stores and it looked interesting. It is about the ongoing battle between the Night Watch (Light magic) and the Day Watch (Dark magic). It turns out the book contained 3 individual stories, all featuring the same characters, Gesar (the leader), Anton (a new member of the Night Watch), Olga (an old sorceress with a past) and Sveta (newly discovered and Anton's love), plus the rest of the Watch. Interesting stories, interesting twists and turns. I do at times get frustrated with Anton's issues and concerns but they are used neatly to develop the plot. Very interesting stories and quite enjoyable. Different from others of the type I've read. I'll have to consider getting the remainder in the series. (4 stars)"
Still to Read
Metro 2033 by Dmitri Glukhovsky. I bought this book just a couple of weeks ago while exploring one of the local book stores. It sounded interesting. This is the synopsis and you can judge for yourself.
"Civilization's most northern outpost, a lonely metro station, is attacked by mysterious creatures that somehow have awoken in the recent war. The world lies in ruins, the surface is contaminated, and a prey to the sun's deadly rays. One last human remnant have sought protection in the Metro, the world's largest nuclear bomb secure bunker, where stations have been transformed into small city states with their own ideologies and governments.
Everywhere there is a constant struggle for living space, water filters, electric heaters and fungal cultures, all while darkness and terror reigns in the tunnels.
A young man is forced out on a dangerous journey through the subterranean maze of tunnels, shafts and sidings, where nobody knows what to expect around the next corner."
So there you go. This became a bigger BLog entry that I'd thought. Obviously it's not all-inclusive, just some thoughts on some of the books I've been exposed to in the Horror genre. Maybe it'll give you some ideas on books you'd like to try. I hope so. Good luck!