“Good riddance!” Stephen barked at the ‘Welcome to Amityville’ sign, then quickly surveyed the front and back seats to see if he’d disturbed his sleeping family. Not a peep; like him, the strangeness and horror of what they’d just experienced had left them completely exhausted. “I’ll get us somewhere safe,” he whispered to no one in particular, “some place normal.” He wasn’t ready for the big city, but he’d been researching possible suburbs that would work; Cloverfield was the winner. He leaned back and put the pedal to the metal.
Cheryl reviewed the documents smugly. No one in her office thought she’d be able to sell the place (a burned out cabin in the middle of a dying part of the woods), but they were eating crow today. She giggled. It was the perfect site for two guys opening a taxidermy workshop and she’d stressed how easy it would be to clear the grounds and expand. Cheryl squinted down at the fine print; she was right to put in in, but she didn’t want it to be prominent. “Property may or may not contain Evil Dead. It is the Owner’s responsibility to not raise said Dead or, if raised, to return Dead to Hell by any means necessary. Included in sale: one book, said to aid in management of Evil Dead.” “Good enough,” Cheryl said, putting the papers and the book into her briefcase.
It awoke with a start, the same dream unfolding – leaving behind the sinking feeling that it was being watched … pursued … by a crazy, one-legged man. It shuddered, then decided not to crest just yet; it needed space and some additional time to wake up. The great white whale moved slowly out to deeper water.
I have described Ania Ahlborn’s”Seed” to friends as a cross between “The Exorcist” and “Donnie Darko”; although some of the characters and situations seem familiar, the writing is spare and fresh and extra “in your face” because of the casual style. Do not read if you are looking for smatterings of “Poltergeist” humor; these are people in a decidedly Not Funny situation and the pressure and horror only increase throughout the book. I personally love how the main characters seem to waste a lot of valuable time in denial, doing nothing; this is a good countermeasure to other books that seem to have a superhero (just add water) in the wings. Some of the scenes are still with me – which is rare. I can see why the story was optioned for film development. Am I brave enough to see the movie if it’s made? Perhaps … “Seed” gets a Reaper Rating of 4 (“Thrill Kill”) for its verve, tenacity, and ability to inspire night light use.
She awoke from the strangest dream and it stayed with her all day. In it, she’d been a spider living at the top of a large doorway; a talking pig would happen by and they’d engage in conversation – or she’d weave him messages in her web. “How incredibly disturbing,” Charlotte thought with a shudder. By the late afternoon, she’d sworn off laudanum completely, fearing some fracture of the mind. Turning herself firmly towards more practical subject matter, Miss Bronte sat herself down by the fire and wrote “Jane Eyre”.
Alton found the box of scrapbooks and, laughing, called Dale over. Inside, not only a book for each of them, but three volumes of other people’s stuff – people who’d hurt their mom terribly over the years. “I sensed in myself a tendency towards grudges,” she wrote in the letter taped to the lid, “and I felt that I should try harder to see them as people with purpose and potential. It helped. I can die saying that I never hated anybody.” They didn’t burn the scrapbooks as she instructed, but proudly shared them with others.
He put the sign out: “Book Sale”. It might take all day but, eventually, they would come (true bibliophiles were unable to resist that siren’s song – even to an unmarked shop at the end of a dark street). Some were young and in love with reading; some were seasoned and possessed a desire to write themselves; still others were old and longing for a different world than this. All were welcome to browse and buy, but only one would be picked to stay for dinner (as both guest and main course). Nothing was as deliciously complex as the well-read brain.
That’s right, RAY. As the summer progresses, and the heat drives us into fantasies about fall and winter, get your chills early at the hands of a legend. Although known for his breathtaking science fiction, Ray Bradbury had a healthy dollop of dark fiction mojo which he sparingly released. “The October Country” (a collection of short stories) and “From the Dust Returned” (short stories woven into a larger book) are brilliant, dazzling reads; “Dark Carnival” (another collection) will prime the pump for another dive into “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Remember the man with some older work that lies off of the beaten path. Bradbury’s collections cannot be rated; they are priceless.
“I don’t know why you read that junk,” she sneered, hitting the “k” hard enough to spit. I put the science fiction down and looked at her. I wanted to say “Well, Kim, I read this junk because I want to be one of those people who could wake up tomorrow, find that aliens had landed, and have a framework for ongoing rational thought.” Instead, I just shrugged and said “Meh”. You really have to pick your battles and, let’s face it, not everybody is going to fit in my underground shelter.
Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves is the hottest property in horror right now, so I queued up my request at the library and waited with glee. The story at its heart involves a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside, and it is truly terrifying. Danielewski has Lovecraft’s gift for describing the oppressing gloom and icy terror of vast spaces; this is brilliantly done. But this is also a tale within a tale within a tale, dropped into a dizzying construct (e.g., pages printed backwards, upside down, with only one line on the page, and reams upon reams of footnotes that form a kind of side plot). I understand that the art direction of the book itself mirrors the labyrinth described in the core story, but I found it cumbersome and too distracting. I found myself skipping huge chunks just to keep my reading continuous on one storyline, revealing that I’m kind of a purist when it comes to delivery of the goods. Now I know.
From me, “House of Leaves” gets a Reaper Rating of 3: Timely Departure. An incredible literary debut and an amazing premise that really delivers in a construct that’s difficult and distracting.