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2. The House Next Door by Will Macmillan Jones

I bought this from the author at BristolCon. It's a traditional cursed/possessed object horror story. A downtrodden young woman impulsively spends money she can't afford on an antique unicorn statue. Within hours it has killed her abusive mother and more nastiness soon follows. Fortunately, she lives next door to Mister Jones, who knows a thing or two about the occult and a man who can bind and banish the entity.

It doesn't add anything new to the horror genre, but it's a fun couple of hours' read.

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60. Dead Bad Things by Gary McMahon

I picked up an early novel of his about a decade ago, and enjoyed it but never followed up. I found this one lying on the freebie table at BristolCon and nabbed it.

The prologue is a bit naff, but the main book grabbed me right from the start. A young police woman and her partner are called to investigate a disturbance in a posh part of Leeds and find a grisly murder has taken place. Her father, also a police officer and truly nasty person, has recently died and she finally works up to tackling all of the evidence he left behind. Meanwhile, a psychic called Thomas Usher (who I understand is a recurring character in McMahon's work) is living in a "grey area" (area so haunted it's left derelict) in London trying to lie low, but keeps getting messages from a supernatural force trying to manipulate him - or help him, he doesn't know which.

I greatly enjoyed this book - the murder mystery is interesting, the Thomas Usher bits are malevolent and disturbing and the solution is fairly satisfying. Will definitely looking for more of his in the future.

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17. Night Music: Nocturnes 2 by John Connolly

My favourite John Connolly book is Nocturnes, his first volume of short stories. It's the first book of his I ever read and I was impressed not only by the individual stories in it, but the variety of voice that he employs.

So I was pretty excited when he put out another volume. I started reading the first one right away, but then it sat on my shelf for a while. The first story, "The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository" is indeed good, but it is about fictional characters coming to life & the social mechanisms for looking after them. Unfortunately I'd just read Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, which is based on much the same idea, and is done better (and while Fforde got there first, it's not like it's a completely original idea to either).

There follow a few really short numbers that failed to excite me.

Then comes "The Fractured Atlas: Five Fragments", which just blew me away. Creepy, interesting, it's got the lot. And all the stories that follow are just superb.

So my faith in one of my favourite writers was restored, just in time for his new Charlie Parker novel to come out (which I am reading now and I love it).
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3. The Secrets of Drearcliffe Grange School by Kim Newman

Kim Newman takes on the boarding school story, with spooky and nefarious stuff going on, in a slightly alternate world where there are people with Unusual abilities who are useful to the government but socially frowned upon.

I really struggled with the first half (or maybe third) - Newman channels St Trinian's which, from my limited exposure, is one of the most vile concepts on the planet.

Eventually there is less jolly hockey sticks and inter-war posh people slang and more spooky stuff, and it gets a lot more interesting and genuinely creepy rather than the cartoon quirkiness of the first half/third. I tore through the last 100 pages. The ending is just - confusing - though.

Not one of his better efforts and frustrating because there was a really malevolent story at its core which got buried.
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26. Revival by Stephen King

Billed as King's return to straight-up horror.

It is, but it's kind of not. It's about a boy who grows up in the 60s in Maine, a mostly idyllic childhood that encompasses one traumatic event. He befriends the pastor of his local church, who is generally considered to be a Great Guy, until tragedy strikes. In that time, the pastor "heals" the narrator's brother of a psychosomatic illness.

Fast forward 30 years, and Jamie is grown up, and would be a reasonably successful jobbing guitarist if it weren't for his heroin addiction. He comes across his old friend the pastor, who is now running a sideshow at the Tulsa fairground doing interesting things with photography and electricity. He cures Jamie of his heroin addiction with "secret electricity" (and it works, with only some odd side effects) and Jamie goes to work for him.

Fast forward again to nearly the present day, and Jamie is a reasonably successful studio manager, working for another man who Pastor Danny "cured" back in the day (a musician who went deaf). They discover that the pastor has a new name, and a big revival tent show business curing people of everything from arthritis to cancer. They do some digging, and find that there are - side effects.

It all leads up to a climax on a mountain in a thunderstorm. I'd figured out where it was going, but the ending is still creepy as all hell and packs a punch.

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Apologies for the delay; LJ code is now breaking work's IE - I can read posts but not comments and I can't post - and turning on the computer at home is something I rarely do.

18. NO5 4R2 by Joe Hill

This one's about a girl with a none too happy home background who uses her bike to ride over a bridge that no longer exists to find missing things. As she grows up it gets harder, and then she finds that there's a Very Bad Man using the same pathways ("inscapes") to kidnap children and take them to Christmasland. She battles him and comes out ahead.

That's the first third and it is amazing; I found myself staying up far too late one evening to get through the first scary part.

It sadly goes off the boil after that. She ends up being a very troubled adult because she thinks she imagined all this stuff and she keeps getting phone calls that no one else can hear from the children trapped in Christmasland because she put their captor in jail.

Even the final third, where he comes back from the dead and kidnaps her own son, just didn't do it for me.

This really, really felt like a Stephen King book (Hill is King's son), but King would have done a better job. There's even (I think, I finished it weeks ago) a reference to the nomadic people in RVs who are the villains of Doctor Sleep.

19. A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin

If I'd read the paperbacks this would count as 2; but I took it on holiday with me on my Nexus 7 and it was cheaper to buy it as a single volume.

More of the same, but the last couple hundred pages are un-put-downable.
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64. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

This is the sequel to The Shining.

Some years ago on a signing tour, King was asked "whatever happened to the kid from The Shining?" and he got thinking.

It's nowhere near as scary as The Shining (which scared the crap out of me when I was about 14), but it's probably a better book (see the bit about being 14 - I would need to re-read the original to make a fair comparison).

Dan Torrance has grown up to become an alcoholic drifter, because being drunk takes the edge off his psychic abilities. But eventually he has enough and settles down and gets clean. He gets a job in a hospice where, in addition to his contractual duties, he is known as "Doctor Sleep" because he sits with people in their last moments and helps them on their way (in a good way, not in a killing them off way). The one really frustrating thing about this book is that King never goes into detail about this - which I kind of get, but I found it frustrating.

Meanwile, there are a group of monsters who are most analagous to vampires but aren't, who feed off the energy of children with "the shining" (the powers wear off as they grow up). There is a girl with such powers living near Dan, who has attracted their attention...

I say it's not as scary as The Shining, but will never see tops hats or retired people in RVs in the same way again.
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64. Spectre by Stephen Laws
Straight-up horror, set in Newcastle in the 80s. 10 years after leaving college, a group of friends are being bumped off in horrific ways, and when each one dies, they disappear from the group photo. There's some quite scary and suspenseful stuff in there. I had immense fun reading this, to the point where I wished my bus would be late or get stuck in traffic!

It was originally published in the 80s but Laws made some changes to it when the new edition came out in 2003. One of those changes was taking out some of the things that he felt made it too 80s. It's still really obviously set in the 80s, but it has a retro feel, as if it was written now about the 80s, which is - possibly the right call in terms of making it age better, but - odd.
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(imdb here)

This is one of the best supernatural thrillers I've ever seen. It's probably better than The Skeleton Key and is close to being as good as the original Omen. It's set in the Louisiana swamp. There's quasi-Biblical weird stuff going on, a spooky massive plantation house, a seriously creepy shack in the swamp near the ruined town in the swamp. The main character has some intrusive & disturbing flashbacks from her past.

Some of the plot twists you see coming; some you don't. It's edge-of-the-seat stuff from start to finish.

I didn't see this in the cinema because it looked kinda interesting but not that good. It's not at all the film that the trailer suggested, it's orders of magnitude better.

Get your hands on this if at all possible!


Sep. 24th, 2006 08:30 pm
inulro: (Default)
Well, that was an excellent weekend. Never having been to a con before, I wasn't sure what to expect, and was afraid there may have been a lot of sitting (or worse, standing) around waiting for the sessions with Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. That was not the case.

Really long. It's )


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