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Posts tagged ‘thriller’

Lost on the Darkside: Voices from the Edge of Horror

Lost on the Darkside: Voices from the Edge of Horror, edited by John Pelan

Image via The SF Site.

Title: Lost on the Darkside: Voices from the Edge of Horror

Editor: John Pelan

Year of Publication: 2005

Genre Keywords: anthology, horror, mystery, short stories, suspense, thriller.

Summary: A selection of tales from the self-proclaimed masters of terror, ranging from the gory to the supernatural to the psychological. The common unifying theme seems to be the concept of an evil side to reality that fascinates us and draws us in, even when we’d be smarter to look away – a rather interesting comment on the horror genre itself. Stories include:

  • “At the Circus of the Dead” by Tony Richards – A very unsavory circus act that traffics in death and dismemberment. So why won’t anybody walk away?
  • “This Body of Death” by Maria Alexander – A sexy story about a demonic love affair, where it’s the darkness that draws our heroine in . . . but at what cost?
  • “The Blood of Ink” by Joseph A. Ezzo – Lionel doesn’t know why he’s so irritated by his business partner’s habit of fidgeting with his fancy, expensive pen. But when he steals the pen as a prank, he discovers it’s more than he bargained for.
  • “Unblinking” by Ramsey Campbell – A university professor finds himself increasingly obsessed with his elderly neighbour in a chilling chronicle of the descent into paranoia.
  • “The Dirty People” by David B. Silva – When a writer begins to see neighbours silhouetted in the attic of the vacant house next door, he assumes somebody must have moved in, but instead faces the nightmare of decay – both in the house next door and within his own brain.
  • “Glyphotech” by Mark Samuels – Franklyn Crisk has an ordinary job in an ordinary cubicle until the day his company invites him (and his colleagues) to a motivational seminar at Glyphotech. When he chooses to walk away from the company’s cultlike tactics, he becomes a target . . . and the choice may cost him more than just his job.
  • “Spider Dream” by Michael Reaves – Pretty much what it sounds like. Except what if it was a dream from which you couldn’t wake? If each time you woke, you found yourself inside the same nightmare, getting worse?
  • “Behind the Masque” by Jeffrey Thomas – Upon the death of his eccentric boss, Rod finds himself charged with getting rid of the man’s strangest possessions: a number of clones who have the DNA of their famous progenitors, but not the talent that brought them immortality.
  • “Last Stop” by John Pelan – A librarian repelled by a particular homeless man who comes to the reading room to get warm finds himself obsessed, following the stranger to a horrifying end.
  • “A Bottle of Egyptian Night” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson – An aging single woman with a peculiar love for curiosity shops comes into possession of a seemingly ordinary ink bottle with a mysterious ability to introduce her to the mysteries of the hereafter.
  • “Roadside Memorials” by Joseph Nassise – A paramedic becomes fascinated by the human habit of erecting a little cross or leaving flowers at the site of a fatal accident . . . and both transfixed and repelled when he learns that the tradition may be less human than he’d supposed.
  • “Comforts of Home” by Michael Laimo – The other homeless men think Charlie is a freak because he feeds the stray cats around the area. Then again, cats are good friends to have in a time of crisis.
  • “The Call of Farther Shores” by David Niall Wilson – Returning home after his father’s death, Jeremy finds himself moving beyond the memories of his childhood and into the history of a seafaring artifact from the local barber shop.
  • “Our World, How Fragile” by Paul Melniczek – A seemingly purposeless chase scene leads Robert to a very abrupt and unexpected end.
  • “The Crawl” by Gerard Houarner – A violent ritual of redemption drives Dylan to hope that maybe he can find peace at last. But can he embrace the forgiveness? Or will the darkness draw him in?

Who’ll Love It: Fans of horror fiction in any form will find something here to intrigue them. Some of the stories contain elements of bloodier, gooier “gross fiction”, I’ll admit, while others are much more cerebral; there’s a genuine mix that means everyone is likely to find something here that will horrify them, and perhaps also something that will turn them off, which is the risky part of a horror anthology like this.

Want More? This is the fourth in a series of horror anthologies edited by the same John Pelan. Check out Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium, A Walk on the Darkside: Visions of Horror, and The Darker Side: generations of Horror (which won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology). The nice thing about short story anthologies is that you’re not compelled to read them in order to understand what’s happening; each one is sweetly self-contained.

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Scary Library: My Favourite Hallowe’en Reads

It’s the week of Hallowe’en, and in the spirit of the season, I’m spending the week blogging about the world of the ghoulish, the macabre, and the haunting in a series I’ve titled “Scary Library”. (Get it? It rhymes!)

To kick things off, I thought it was only fair to give a sampling of the stories I’ve read and loved in the past. You  may have surmised from my “What’s Your Librarian Reading?” posts that I’m a bit of a horror story fan. So, if you came into my library and asked me about some of my personal favourites, what would I say? Here, in no particular order, are my top ten choices.
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The Fury

The Fury by John Farris

Image via Fantastic Fiction.

Title: The Fury

Author: John Farris

Year of Publication: 1976

Genre Keywords: action-adventure, conspiracy, horror, paranormal, psychic, suspense, teen, telekinesis, thriller.

Summary: Gillian is a level-headed, perfectly normal teenager from a wealthy and powerful family . . . until a serious fever awakens the psychic powers she’s been burying since childhood. Robin is deeply aware of the powers he’s always had, even if he has to conceal them around the fanatically religious relatives caring for him. Now that the teens are beginning to explore astral projection, clairvoyance, and telekinetic powers, government agencies have started to take notice. Will they be able to harness Robin and Gillian’s potential for the sake of national security? Or will the teens’ potentially lethal abilities leave government officials shooting to kill? Just to add a layer of complexity, Robin’s father has discovered how the government wants to use his son, and he’d do anything to save Robin from their clutches. He’s fighting for his son’s life, but the body count is rising and time is running out.

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who likes their horror stories X-Files-style, with a side order of conspiracy-theories-come-true. The imagery is truly macabre and honestly a little bit gory, and the fact that it was current in the 1970s makes it almost period fiction by this point.

Beyond Books: For horror-film buffs, check out the classic film adaptation of The Fury, directed by Brian de Palma.

Creature

Creature

Image via Fantastic Fiction.

Title: Creature

Author: John Saul

Year of Publication: 1989

Genre Keywords: conspiracy, corporate, experiments, Frankenstein, high school, horror, medicine, popularity, science, sports, suspense, techno-thriller, teen, thriller.

Summary: A corporate promotion lands the Tanner family in a gorgeous company town nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Everything there seems perfect . . . but is it a little too perfect? The family’s eldest son, Mark Tanner, doesn’t have a chance to think about it; he’s too busy not fitting in. Short and scrawny in a high school full of athletic superstars, he’d rather be exploring nature or caring for his pet rabbits than roughhousing on the football field. Still, when the local sports clinic offers to help him boost his growth, he decides he’s tired of being the runt of the litter and signs on for a treatment program. Maybe that’s not the best idea, though, because it seems like one of the other boys getting treated is growing out of control, in every sense of the word.

Who’ll Love It: It’s not technical or scientific enough that people with no background will be lost, nor is it saturated in sports jargon so that you have to understand football to follow the action. Rather, it’s a story with fairly universal themes and a fairly wide appeal amongst horror fans (which, granted, is a fairly specialized genre to begin). Be prepared to marvel at the callousness of the sports clinic’s employees and the corporation running the town.

Themes for Thought: The Frankenstein medical-science theme is obvious – a classic cautionary tale about delving into science without enough respect for human life. But are there other cautionary tales here? Sports can be a deep obsession in North America, leading to physical and psychological injury for players and those who aren’t able to compete. (Consider the ever-expanding archetypal tale of popular athletes picking on the nerds and misfits.) And on a more literal level, think about all the stories in the news lately about athletes caught doctoring their bodies with performance-enhancing drugs. Perhaps the fictional medicine described in the novel is representative of ethical boundaries being breached in the sports world every day. Think about it . . .

Good Night, Sweet Angel

Cover art for Good Night, Sweet Angel by Clare McNally

Image via Amazon.

Title: Good Night, Sweet Angel

Author: Clare McNally

Year of Publication: 1996

Genre Keywords: afterlife, child in danger, ghosts, haunting, murder, parenting, possession, psychological thriller, supernatural, suspense, thriller.

Summary: After her abusive ex-husband dies trying to get revenge on her and her daughter, all Jenn Galbraith wants is a new start. But that won’t be so easy. Evan’s angry spirit is searching for them from beyond the grave, wanting above all to get revenge on Emily for telling the truth about her father’s abuse. Emily has one ally in this supernatural battle – a ghost-child called Tara. But Tara isn’t always a nice friend; she can be capricious and mean-spirited, and she’s causing Emily some trouble. But surely it can’t be greater than the trouble Emily would be in if her father got to her . . .

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who likes a genuinely creepy ghost story will be enthralled by this one. Tara’s ghost leaves nobody at peace; even minor characters feel her wrath in the form of strange hauntings during a Thanksgiving visit. And don’t forget to look out for strange side characters like Laura, the fifties-throwback housewife, her creepy fieldhand, and her troubled son. It left me inspired by its perfect blend of paranormal phenomena and real-world creepiness.

A Touch of Romance: Most of the book’s emphasis is on the fear factor of a malevolent haunting, but even that leaves time for a single mother to find love. What’s noteworthy is how   lovable her beau really is! Nick Hasken is an all-around sweetheart, a science professor with a love of karate, ballroom dancing, and really nerdy ties and T-shirts. Even more refreshing, he’s not your average bodice-ripping muscleman from the cover of a Harlequin romance. He has a bit of a belly, an awkward sense of fashion, and ever-present chemical stains on his skin from the science lab. But I’ve rarely found a love interest so endearing in any book I’ve read! (To carry the point forward, the evil ex-husband is repeatedly described as “handsome”. Looks really aren’t everything here!)

Knockout

Knockout by Catherine Coulter

Cover art for Knockout. Image via Amazon.

Title: Knockout

Author: Catherine Coulter

Year of Publication: 2009

Genre Keywords: action/adventure,crime,  FBI, kidnapping, paranormal, psychic powers, suspense, thriller.

Summary: A little girl named Autumn has a larger-than-life power: the ability to talk telepathically to others who share her gift. But the sinister family from which she’s inherited it will stop at nothing to get Autumn on their side so they can take advantage of her powers, and she and her mother are on the run. After seeing Agent Dillon Savich on television, she uses her extraordinary brain to call on him for help, and Dillon becomes deeply involved in trying to save her. At the same time, he and his wife Agent Lacey Sherlock pursue a pair of young bank robbers driven forward by an out-of-control teen girl bent on revenge for the robbery-gone-wrong that killed her mother.

Who’ll Love It: Thriller fans who thrive on action and suspense will get sucked right into the high-stakes, high-energy story. Looking from a different angle, though, readers with an interest in dysfunctional families will be fascinated as well – the action grows out of a history of Autumn’s power-hungry relatives and why her father left the brood, and also out of the family dynamics that turned a mother-and-daughter bank-robbing team into a dead mother and an orphaned fugitive.

Series Alert! Catherine Coulter has been writing FBI thrillers about Dillon and Lacey – and other agents, too – since 1996. Find out more by visiting her website.

The Lost Symbol

Cover art for The Lost Symbol

Image via Knopf Doubleday.

Title: The Lost Symbol

Author: Dan Brown

Year of Publication: 2010

Genre Keywords: action/adventure, archaeology, CIA, conspiracy theory, Freemasonry, kidnapping, metaphysics, mystery, religion, symbology, thriller.

Summary: Now-famous symbology professor Robert Langdon is invited to give a last-minute lecture in Washington, D.C. . . . but when he gets there, he finds he’s been tricked by a violent madman in need of a symbologist who can deliver the closely-guarded Masonic pyramid, crack its code, and lead him to the human race’s greatest source of wisdom, guarded for centuries by the Freemasons. If Langdon can decipher this high-stakes puzzle, his mentor Peter Solomon goes free; if Langon fails, Solomon dies. Langdon enlists the aid of Solomon’s sister Katherine, a scientist on the verge of a major breakthrough in Noetic Science, to try to solve the puzzle posed by the Masonic Pyramid.

Who’ll Love It: Any thriller fans will eat up the standard roller-coaster plot with the twists and turns typical of Dan Brown. But Brown has stepped up his game to create a genuinely well-written mystery full of interesting scientific and philosophical information and even a few touches of sparkling humour. It has a quality of storytelling that his past works have lacked, which makes the “intellectual thriller” a lot more thrilling as a puzzle for clever readers who enjoy solving mysteries or reflecting on ideas but have, in the past, been turned off by Brown’s stilted style. If a literary snob like me loved this story, who wouldn’t?

Is That Real? Dan Brown throws a lot of weird-but-true facts into The Lost Symbol. You can check out a scattering of them here on his web site. And that’s only the beginning!  Katherine’s area of expertise, noetic sciences, actually exists. A Google search on Freemasons can open a door bigger than anything I can link to here. And Brown makes a point of noting  that “all rituals, science, artwork, and monuments in this novel are real”. The Lost Symbol can be the inspiration for further reading about a lot of fascinating (and fantastically strange!) stuff. Find out what’s fact and what’s fiction!

A Masonic symbol carved in stone

Image via Debate It Out.

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