You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Creepy stuff’ tag.

23154785What’s it all about?

The Annihilation Score is Book 6 in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series, so probably¬†not a good place for new readers to start, but very exciting for old hands like me ūüôā

This time around the focus is on Mo O’Brien, an agent for the Laundry, which is the secret government agency which deals with occult powers and the threats they present. Mo has a very special set of skills alongside wielding a bloodthirsty possessed violin as her main weapon.

Ordinary people are developing superpowers and the Laundry needs to work with the mainstream police force to contain the potential threat. Of course it’s not as simple as that and there are consequences (with a capital C).

Why did I want to read it?

I have been reading this series since it started and enjoy watching the characters develop and the shift in tone as different threats are dealt with; everything from megalomaniacs wanting to take over the world, Lovecraftian entities from other dimensions, underwater beings and, of course, vampires. Wouldn’t miss new entries in the series¬†for the world.

What did I think about it?

I really enjoyed this entry in the series, with its shift in focus away from Bob, our normal protagonist, to his wife Mo. The story stands or falls on whether you like Mo as a character or not and I do. I¬†particularly¬†liked the fact that a significant number of the leading characters in the story are women, and that they aren’t spending all of their time snarking at each other, but find a way to work together despite tensions in their working and personal relationships.

But the great joy in this series for an old civil servant like me is the accuracy of the bureaucracy¬†that always arises when different bits of the public sector have to work with each other more closely than they would like, and the jockeying for position and advantage that results. Setting aside the whole occult thing (obviously) some of the situations will be recognisable to anyone who has worked in an office environment, especially¬†within government.¬†Gives an added depth to what’s already a good story.

I already have book seven in the stacks, and book eight has been pre-ordered, so more Laundry shenanigans to come.

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9723667I decided to re-read this Agatha Christie novel in advance of the three part TV adaptation which was on the BBC over the Christmas weekend. Although I was familiar with the story I wanted to refresh my memory so that I could see what changes the screenwriter had and hadn’t made. This is in part because of bad experiences with recent Christie adaptations where they have packed the episodes with big name actors even¬†in the smallest parts and have mucked about with the stories so that they are basically unrecognisable.

Rant over.

Though for the avoidance of doubt I should say that Joan Hickson’s Miss Marple and David Suchet’s Poirot are exempt from this criticism.

Context

I have owned¬†a reasonable sized collection of Christies since I was in secondary school so I rummaged in the stacks to find the copy I knew I had, with the aim of reading it on a train trip to and from Manchester. What I had forgotten is that my paperback is from 1975 (22nd impression) and not only has a golliwog on the cover (one of the great Tom Adams illustrations) but also has the original 1939 title which today would be totally unacceptable, so that scuppered that idea. Didn’t want to be glared at on the Pendolino.¬†In the end I read it roughly in parallel with the broadcast.

The novel

I was pleased to see that my memory of the story had held up pretty well. 10 people, strangers to each other apart (obviously) from the married couple who are the only servants, are invited to an island off the coast of Devon for a house party. They are a pretty mixed bunch and it becomes clear that they have all been spun a different story to get them there and more importantly they all have something to hide. And then they start being bumped off one after the other.

The tone is very dark, none of the characters are particularly¬†likeable and of course paranoia and hysteria soon settle in and accusations start flying around. The central conceit of the nursery rhyme works well and the only thing I found jarring was the explanation of it all at the end. But still enjoyably twisted. As someone said on Twitter (and sorry, I can’t find it again) Christie invented the slasher movie ūüôā

The TV adaptation

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Unusually, and in this case pleasingly, the BBC decided to do three one hour episodes which I think worked really well in allowing the story to develop. It didn’t lose any tension at all, and they didn’t tinker with the ending at all. In fact, the dramatised version solved¬†the problem in the novel of how we find out who was behind it all. Even the inevitable jazzing up for modern tastes (more sex, more obvious drug taking, some¬†of which is hinted at on the novel) was sensitively done and didn’t jar at all.¬†An excellent cast and high production values helped deliver the highlight of holiday TV for me (I will deal with¬†The Abominable Bride elsewhere).

This read-along¬†has¬†made me want to revisit the Christie back catalogue, and that can only be a good thing. That includes reading a more modern edition of the novel to see how it’s been changed

I must do this sort of thing¬†more often, but don’t think I’ll start with War and Peace…..

 

 

I really really did intend to write proper full reviews for each of the books below (and still will for my actual final read of the year because I will be linking it to something else) but life sort of got in the way and I want to start the new year with a reasonably clean slate so the fact that I have chosen to do mini-reviews for each of these is no reflection on the books themselves; I really enjoyed all three of them.

And when you write a paragraph-long sentence you need to stop and breathe ūüėÄ

Bryant & May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler

25886638I’m not going to go on again about how much I love these books, but will just say that this short story collection was a real treat and I had only read one of them previously so that was even better. The additional pleasure was to be found in the extras:

  • an introduction which gave us CF’s insights into crime fictions, always fascinating
  • additional information on each of the stories; and
  • a synopsis of each of full-length cases so far (there’s another one coming in a few months)

Great fun

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

25228309Along with the Fowler collection this chunky book of stories from my favourite writer of horror really got me back into the pleasure of reading short fiction.

Again, brilliant notes from the author and the two stories I had read before really stood up well to a revisit.

I think King’s short works are often overlooked and this had some real goodies. If you haven’t tried them you really should.

 

Slade House by David Mitchell

24500887The Bone Clocks was one of my favourite reads of 2015 so when I found out that Mitchell was bringing out a short book¬†set in¬†the world of that novel then I know I was going to read it as soon as I could, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apart from the fact that it has one of the most beautiful book covers of the year, it is really very creepy and disorienting and reinforced my feeling that Mitchell will become a regular on my to buy list. Luckily I have a couple of his novels already on the stacks as I am on a buying freeze. This is a goodie and one I intend to re-read. Still thinking about it weeks after I finished reading it.

buttonI had such fun taking part in the 2015 version of this challenge (I wrote my wrap-up post only the other day – you can find it here if you are interested) that I decided to take part again this year.

I’m going to stretch myself a little bit more this time around, and aim for the Fearless category, which means I have to read 11-15 horror books and if I succeed I will get a nifty badge.

I’m not doing a reading list for this as such, BUT because I’m planning to read along with and hopefully attend meetings of the Horror Book Club, I already have some books picked out which will fit in with this challenge, and these are:

  • January – The Troop
  • February – The House of Leaves (a re-read)
  • March –¬†Anno Dracula (a re-read)
  • April –¬†My Work is Not Yet Done
  • May – ¬†The Heart Shaped Box (a re-read)

If I succeed with these I’ll be well on my way to meeting my goal, and I have a couple of unread Stephen King novels I can throw into the mix if I need to; should be good!

18889526What’s it all about?

Against a background of young children turning on members of their families and killing them, Hesketh Lock is investigating a parallel series of incidents involving industrial sabotage across the world. Neither of these things make sense, but are they actually connected? What do you think? And who or what are The Uninvited?

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve read two of Liz Jensen’s previous creepy novels, The Rapture and The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, and enjoyed then a great deal. This sounded like it was very much in that vein.

What did I think of it?

This is the book that hopefully broke my reading slump of recent months. I found it fascinating and read it in a coupe of days which is quite something for me at the moment. Hesketh is a compelling character, a man with Asperger’s going through difficult times in his personal life and being confronted by two sets of mysteries which (not really a spoiler) are connected in a most unexpected way. How he reacts (or doesn’t) is central to the development of the story.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot other than that; how it all comes together part of the fun, if you can call the end of the world as we know it “fun”. But¬†I have a particular fondness for books that describe the world falling apart (the literary equivalent of a disaster movie I suppose) and this very much fits into that genre, with the added bonus of really creepy children. It’s fast paced and an enjoyable read. I liked it.

11588About The Shining

(which I originally typed as The Shinning which isn’t at all frightening unless you played hockey at school, that is)

Anyway, about The SHINING:

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…

When did I first read this? 1977, as soon as it came out in NEL paperback, having loved both Carrie and (still my absolute favourite) ‘Salem’s Lot.

What age was I? 15

How many times since then?¬†Apparently this is the third time I’ve read this and the first time since 1983.

Thoughts about the book:

By the time I read The Shining I was a committed Stephen King fan, and the idea of a small boy trapped in an old hotel with his parents for a whole winter troubled by things that go bump in the night (but also in the day, let’s not forget those hedge animals) was intriguing to me. I think I expected a classic ghost story and that’s partly the case, but as always with¬†King there is so much more there – the sensitive child with the troubled father and the mother who is not sure about the security of her family, the spectre of alcoholism and writer’s block all brewing in a building with a long and frightening history. It was bound not to end well.

I think The Shining is a good example of a child protagonist who manages to be convincing, not understanding what’s going on in the adult world but able to pick up on the complex and contradictory emotions of his parents, knowing how important the job is to his father and so not wanting to talk about the stuff he is experiencing until it’s all too late. I had forgotten how evenly spread the story is between Jack and Danny, and with big chunks being devoted to Wendy and Halloran as well. A properly haunting story with limited amounts of gore and some really frightening and dread-inducing imagery.

It’s very interesting to go back to a book after a film version has been released. I have lots of issues with the Kubrick film (and most of my friends disagree, at which point it becomes clear that they have never read the novel, so what do they know?). First off it’s worth saying that in many respects it’s a great Kubrick film, but not a great King adaptation. I find it just too unbalanced, focusing so much on Jack (Nicholson) Torrance that you forget this is largely Danny’s story. I had forgotten for example that one of Jack’s irritations at the Overlook is that it is using him to get to Danny and doesn’t really want him at all, and I don’t remember that coming across in the movie. The biggest problem I have of course is with Wendy, who¬†has so much more agency in the book than she does in the film, and I just hate the ending of the movie.

So although it took me longer than intended to re-read (I was doing so for The Horror Book Club but realised I couldn’t make the meeting and so slowed down) I really enjoyed it, especially the last 25% when the tension really builds up.

And of course there is a sequel, Doctor Sleep, which I read and reviewed here.

IMG_0238What’s it all about?

Triss wakes up after an accident which resulted in her being pulled half-drowned from a river near the cottage where she is staying with her parents and her younger sister Pen. But something isn’t right, Triss has changed in ways she doesn’t understand,¬†and she needs to travel to some dark places to find out what’s going on and, more importantly perhaps, who she is.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve had Cuckoo Song¬†on my eTBR for a while but it was only¬†when it was nominated for the first James Herbert award that I pulled it forward to read. I was intrigued about what could be in an ostensibly children’s book that got it onto that nominee list.

What did I think of it?

This is definitely a slow burner of a read, but incredibly atmospheric and once the world that Triss finds herself in has been established the plot really kicks off and builds to a very satisfying climax. Without being too spoilery, it’s clear from very early on that our Triss isn’t the real Triss but some form of changeling, and the question is how¬†and why that has happened and¬†to what ultimate purpose. So we get into some complicated family dynamics, parents who have become overprotective of their children because of the death of their only son in WWI, resentment between siblings, frustration at being hemmed in and the bargains people will make to get what they think they want without any real thought for the consequences.

It’s set in a version on 1920s England that has a steampunk aesthetic (at least that’s how I thought of it) but also a sense of there¬†being another world of strange creatures sitting just to the side of the real world that our characters inhabit. There’s cruelty and kindness of all kinds, but the main impetus of the story is not-Triss trying to establish some form of identity for herself while trying to put right the things that have been done with her as an unwitting participant. And it has a really cool bad guy.

It took a little while for me to get into the story, and I actually set it aside for a bit until I was in the right frame of mind for this dark and unsettling fairy tale, but I’m glad I went back to it because it is a really well-written and effective story with some genuine horror at its heart.

I am counting this towards both Once Upon a Time IX (for the fairy tale and fantasy elements though it wasn’t on my planned reading list), and 2015 Horror Reading Challenge (because of the James Herbert nomination).

I have at least two more (possibly three) of Hardinge’s books and I will be sure to read them given how much I came to like Cuckoo Song.

IMG_0218What’s it all about?

The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth in the series of novels set in The Laundry, the really really secret bit of the British Civil Service that deals with nasties from other dimensions, the Old Ones and their ilk.

This time Bob Howard, our hero, is contending with, well, the impending Apocalypse. Specifically, an attempt to awaken Something from Another Dimension (capitals always seem necessary here) which Bob has come across before, mostly in his dreams nightmares.

This time round he has the “help” of two external assets – Persephone Hazard (who is basically a witch) and Jonny McTavish (who has form with the kind of cultish religion involved here).

Oh and they are in Colorado dodging the local equivalent of the Laundry (amongst other things).

Why did I want to read it?

As I’ve said before I’m working my way through the series in order (as is only right and proper). Thoughts on¬†The Atrocity Archives,¬†The Jennifer Morgue¬†and The Fuller Memorandum have already been shared as linked.

What did I think of it?

I don’t know whether it’s because I read this so close to finishing the previous volume (and that’s why I usually take longish breaks between elements of a series) but it took me a bit¬†longer to get into The Apocalypse Codex than normal, and the use of a greater amount of third person narrative (as opposed to us mostly seeing the action through Bob’s perspective) might not have helped. But once the Big Bad was identified and the action got under way then I was sucked in as per usual. The main new characters this time round were Jonny and Persephone (as mentioned above) and Gordon Lockhart, a senior manager in the Laundry who looks after External Assets. So lots of new people and consequently not enough Mo or Angleton for my taste but once we are in the USA dealing with a completely bonkers evangelical church with a charismatic leader and a plan to bring forward the end of the world and save us all whether we want to be saved or not then those reservations all passed.

Of course the bad guys are (partially) unwitting dupes of something other¬†than they expect, and of course the new guys underestimate Bob’s talents and skills because he looks like a boring civil servant, and of course it all goes a bit pear-shaped and they have to make it up as they go along, but the end of the world is diverted once again, we learn a lot more about the internal workings of the Laundry and things change for Bob, probably in a good way but we’ll wait and see.

I am still really enjoying this series and have one novel and three short stories to go to catch up, but may give myself a break for a bitto keep it all fresh. But as always, recommended if Lovecraftian-related administrative shenanigans are your bag.

IMG_0214What’s it all about?

The Fuller Memorandum is the third in the series of novels set in The Laundry, the really really secret bit of the British Civil Service that deals with nasties from other dimensions, the Old Ones and their ilk.

This time Bob Howard, our hero, is contending with secret dossiers, the odder-than-usual behaviour of his scary boss Angleton, zombie killers, Russian counterparts, apocalyptic death cults and the end of the world being a bit more imminent than originally thought. But at least he has an understanding manager.

Why did I want to read it?

I’m working my way through the series in order (as is only right and proper). Thoughts on The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue have already been shared as linked. And it’s¬†paranormal-civil-servanty-espionage after all.

What did I think of it?

I think this is probably my favourite of the Laundry Files so far. Bob has a bit of a problem at the beginning of the book which means that he isn’t working as normal when all the oddness starts happening, so that adds a slightly different perspective as he has to do quite a bit of sneaking around.

But what makes this a particularly fine entry into the series is that we lean more about Mo, Bob’s wife, who also works at the Laundry, and the toll that her duties take on her (she sees some really really nasty stuff as part of her day job) as well as finding out quite a bit about Angleton (one of my favourite characters), information that serves to explain a lot about his position int he organisation.

Chuck in some authentic Russian history with an occult twist, a very unpleasant cult who are actually dying (in more ways than one) to get those other-dimensional through to our side to wreak havoc on the world, season with really black humour and some proper horror and you have a gripping story that I couldn’t put down. Made all the better for an old civil servant like me because of¬†all the bureaucratic nonsense, which is not that far from the truth (except for the zombies of course). Looking forward to continuing with the series.

IMG_0193What’s it all about?

Christmas Tales of Terror is exactly what it says, a collection of scary stories for the younger reader all based around Christmas from the author of the Takes of Terror series (which started with Uncle Montague ages ago)

Why did I want to read it?

I really like Chris Priestly’s work, his love of the traditional MR James type story and his re-tellings of some famous tales for a young audience (a particular favourite being Mister Creecher) make him an author always worth seeking out.

What did I think of it?

Great fun. Set in an indeterminate but possibly Edwardian era they are nicely creepy and usually with a moral (though never in a heavy handed way). As I said, these are very much for younger readers so I didn’t find them scary but I think I would really have enjoyed them when I was about 10 (though I was reading HP Lovecraft at 11 so maybe not).

I will definitely be very¬†careful where I pick my Christmas greenery this year…..

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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The creepy Holiday Bears are back in the Bentall Centre; thankfully not singing while I was there. The glassy eyed stare haunts me......

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