Tag Archives: horror

Cell

Author: Stephen Kingcell

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Clay Riddell has finally gotten his big break, signing a ridiculously good deal for his comic Dark Wanderer as well as a sequel. But his euphoria doesn’t get a chance to last for long as the world around him seems to go mad in a matter of minutes. People lose all appearance of reason, attacking each other, biting, running cars into buildings and people. In the following days, as Clay manages to make contact with a few normal people, it becomes apparent that this madness is linked to using a cell phone . . . and these days, who doesn’t use one? Distraught and desperate, Clay and his new companions, Tom and Alice, begin making their way across country in an attempt to reach Clay’s estranged wife and son–while doing their best to avoid run-ins with those who have come to be known as “phoners”. Especially as the phoners’ behavior becomes increasingly concerning and odd.

Stephen King is an amazing author, and while Cell is probably not my favorite of his books, it is certainly both an exciting and a thought-provoking read. It actually reminds me a great deal of Patterson’s Zoo, only better in every aspect. The idea of someone hacking the cell phone system is both chilling and just possible enough to get under the reader’s skin, however improbable the reprogramming of millions of people’s brains using such a signal is. I admired that King limited the story, kept it to a select group of individuals, kept the reader from knowing everything that’s going on, and never revealed the actual source of the problem. It made Clay and his companions’ experience seem much more present and real, more emotionally gripping. And this is certainly an emotionally loaded story, full of adrenaline and horror and sorrow and worry, but also of affection and laughter and joy, surprisingly enough. I enjoyed the characters and found that each brought something indispensable to the story. On a much more detailed note, I loved the allusions to Clay’s comic and his attention to signage and fonts (which is carried through by using different fonts in the text at key moments); I just found that this added a nice extra touch of character development. For those interested in a chilling cyberpunk zombie story that’s a bit open-ended, I think Cell is a great choice, one I would certainly recommend.

 

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The Little Girls of the Forests

Author: SargtlinOlaththe little girls of the forests

My rating: 4 of 5

Have you ever seen the little girls of the forests, alone and beckoning? Hopefully you never will. But if you ever do . . . run!

The Little Girls of the Forests is a strange but intriguing short story, just the sort that would be perfect for telling around the campfire. Creepy, chilling, unbelievable,  but with just enough credible detail to give the reader a moment’s pause. It’s written in a first-person style that almost evokes the idea of a memoir or a research journal–something of the sort of style that writers such as Poe used to employ. The addition of another individual’s “experiences” with the creepy little girls in the story adds authenticity, as do several details that are colorfully thrown in. I know the author personally, so I’m probably biased, but I really enjoyed this story. Plus, it’s super short (seriously, 5-10 minutes to read, tops), so why not give it a try?

You can find The Little Girls of the Forests here on Wattpad.

 

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Dread (Tabletop RPG)

Publisher: The Impossible Dreamdread game

Designers: Epidiah Ravachol & Nathaniel Barmore

Just recently, I was introduced to a rather unique tabletop RPG called Dread. I found this game to be most interesting to play. It involves many of the elements typical to other tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, but rather than using, say, dice for ability checks, players have to pull from a Jenga tower to see if they can successfully complete a task. This makes the game particularly well suited for horror and suspense style stories, since (as you can imagine) the tension builds more and more the longer the game goes on. Also, since a large number of players will likely be removed from the game at some time during play (since your character is removed if you knock down the tower), this is great for one-shots. I think that, while I still prefer a more fantasy-themed longer-duration game, Dread is pretty interesting for something different on occasion. If you like tabletop RPGs at all, I think it would be worth trying at least.


For more information, you can check out The Impossible Dream’s Dread page here or their WordPress blog here. Enjoy!

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Warm Bodies

Author: Isaac Marionwarm bodies

My rating: 3 of 5

He can’t remember being alive. Can’t remember who he was, the people he knew, or even his own name, except for maybe the first letter of it was “R”–that’s what he goes by when he’s called anything. Whatever he was, not R is part of the problem that’s destroying the earth, an inevitable, creeping undeath afflicting the human race. Not that he’s very philosophical about all that besides aimlessly collecting old records when he can find them. Mostly he’s just there, except for when the need for life energy pushes him to hunt down the living–not that he’s particularly philosophical about that either. But on one hunt, when R eats the brain of a boy, he vicariously experiences numerous memories of one living human girl . . . Julie. Who just happens to be in the same room and in extreme danger of being eaten herself. Surprisingly, instead of turning around and doing just that, R finds himself inexplicably protecting her, taking her back to his secret place. And in the nearness of Julie, R finds something happening in himself that can only be described as miraculous. . . .

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Warm Bodies. Zombie story, obviously, but those come in all shapes and colors, you know? This one turns out to be a fun little paranormal romance, so if you’re into that genre, this story’s a pretty sure hit. Personally, I enjoyed it, although it wasn’t life-changingly stunning or anything like that. Probably the best part of it is the way the author described being a zombie from R’s own perspective–effective while also making it quickly apparent that R is not your average zombie. The zombies Marion depicts here are your slow, inevitable, relatively stupid variety, with a few quirks unique to this story. Pretty chilling for sure. Julie is a good match for the story, with enough guts and personality to brighten the dull landscape. There’s a nice blend of plot between the survival aspect, the change the world aspect, and the romance itself. Where the story  fell a bit flat for me is in the explanation the author picked for how and why the zombie problem started and spread to begin with–and flowing from that, how the problem is solved. Don’t get me wrong, it works with the plot and works well. But it was one of those situations where it’s nearly impossible to suspend my disbelief enough to appreciate what’s happening in the plot. But then, the romance and the way everything works with R and Julie was always the point of the story, not the particular zombie mechanics. So, for what it is–a zombie paranormal romance–Warm Bodies works well and is a cute/creepy story that I would recommend for those who enjoy the genre. Just be warned: gory anatomical pictures at the chapter heads . . . just saying.

 

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Sunshine

Author: Robin McKinleysunshine

My rating: 5 of 5

Rae’s mom would be perfectly happy if her daughter spent her entire life being your average barely-graduated-high-school baker with a slightly bad-boy boyfriend (maybe husband at some point)–and she would especially be happy if Rae completely avoided all contact with or allusions to her dad’s entire side of the family with their dangerous magic handling. As a matter of fact, Rae (or Sunshine as she’s known to just about everyone for her obsession with sunlight) would have been just as happy to make giant cinnamon rolls and millions of muffins for the rest of her life too. But things change, and one evening’s drive out to the lake (which should have been perfectly safe) leads to a traumatic encounter with a group of vampires, and perhaps more significantly with herself and her own latent, untrained powers. And suddenly, Sunshine’s life is irrevocably changed in more ways that she even realizes.

Sunshine is pretty much one of my favorite books ever–one of those that I’ve read so many times that I only let myself read it every few years anymore. I mean really, awesome urban fantasy, vampires, and cinnamon rolls–what’s not to love? Plus of course, Robin McKinley is an incredible author; one of the best, in my opinion. The flow, the language, the atmosphere, the characters, and the interworkings of all the tiny details of this story are just perfectly crafted to work together and really allow the reader the fullest possible experience of Sunshine’s story. I love Sunshine’s character. It’s not often that I find a brassy, relatively-uneducated character like her that I really relate to, but she’s pretty much wonderful and so human. I also find it fascinating that McKinley is basically re-telling the story of Beauty and the Beast (for the third time) in this book–using a vampire as the Beast! That’s pretty novel, I must say, but it works brilliantly, especially in the setting she’s built here. Also notable, if you’ve read many of her other books, this one’s a bit racier than most–sex comes up multiple times throughout, and there’s some more adult language at places as well–so I’d say this is a 16+ (although I was definitely younger the first time I read this, and was duly shocked at times. Oops.). For adults who enjoy vampire stories (in a non-Twilight sense, promise) and even more for those who like solid urban fantasy, I think Sunshine is an incredible story that I wish a lot more people would read. Highly recommended.

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The Infinite Sea

Author: Rick Yanceythe infinite sea

The 5th Wave, vol. 2

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Cassie and Ben have gotten their small group of survivors to temporary safety in an abandoned hotel, but they’re certain they can’t stay hidden there long. You can’t stay hidden anywhere long in a world that’s been taken over by hostile aliens inhabiting human bodies–aliens that have more tech than you can imagine and that hate the human race with an incomprehensible, unending spite. They send their best shot, Ringer, off to investigate a cave system–a potentially better hiding place, at least for a while–leaving the rest at the hotel to recover (Ben being pretty badly wounded) and hope against hope that Cassie’s alien boyfriend (long story) survived their escape and is coming to join them. But, as usual it seems, nothing goes as planned, leaving all of them in a desperate and continuing struggle for survival.

Honestly, while I generally enjoy Yancey’s writing, The Infinite Sea is a bit of a struggle for me to review. I mean, it was an exciting and engaging read, but I think I need to wait for the third volume to come out and then read all three volumes straight through together. As with The 5th Wave, the POV switches between various characters, making it a bit fragmented. Especially since the point of time also jumps back and forward a bit between characters. To complicate things even further, Yancey only rarely uses the name of the character in whose POV he’s writing, tending to use impersonal pronouns instead. Which I guess works with the whole dehumanizing theme he’s got going in the story–I really do appreciate the philosophical basis behind it–but it sure does make the reading more challenging. Also, there’s this whole Inception sort of mind games thing going on; plots within counterplots within even more evil alien counterplots. The characters don’t have a clue what’s really going on (and yes, some folks might have a good time figuring it out as they go along), but honestly the reader is often left struggling to comprehend. And (final complaint, I promise), I still find the whole Evan and Cassie thing to be a complete Twilight-type throw in that doesn’t really suit the rest of the plot . . . even though it is used to advance the plot in several instances. I still think Yancey should pick the Evan and Cassie story or the huge militarily-focused alien invasion story and stick with that one. But, in spite of all the above-listed complaints, I really did enjoy the story (even though it was sort of confusing at parts). I guess I’d just recommend approaching The Infinite Sea with caution, being prepared for a thrilling, mind-bending, intentionally fragmented piece of very dark science fiction.

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Let the Right One In

Author: John Ajvide LindqvistLet the Right One In

Translator: Ebba Segerberg

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature audience

If you had to define Oskar in one word, you’d probably pick something like “pathetic”. Even he knows it; the other kids at his school definitely know it and take full advantage. Mostly, Oskar keeps to himself, making believe he’s someone with more power, more skill than he really has. Until one night, out at the jungle gym, he meets an intriguing girl by the name of Eli. She’s like no one he’s ever met before: smart, mysterious, making him want to be more than he is. And knowing Eli changes Oskar in ways he never expected. Meanwhile, the entire, well-ordered community is abuzz with horror at some “ritual killer” who’s been going around committing macabre, unexplained murders. And Oskar’s view of the world begins to unravel as he gains suspicions that this ritual murderer is somehow linked to the girl he’s coming to care about and rely upon.

Wow. I have to say that Let the Right One In is a pretty incredible book. First, let me get this out there: this book contains sexually explicit content, attempted rape, pedophilia, alcoholism, drugs, language, violence, murder–it’s solidly an R-rated story, so don’t read it unless you’re an adult and you’re prepared for that. But . . . it was a great story in spite of all that. I have to admit that, for maybe the first chapter, I totally wasn’t sold. I didn’t like the characters, and I really didn’t see where the story was going. But once I pushed past that and got to where things started moving, I was utterly sucked in. The balance of horror and pathos is perfect–a minuscule step to either side, and it would collapse, but as-is, it works beautifully. The pacing is a little slower than I’m used to for a “horror” or “thriller” story; it reminds me more of, say, Stephen King’s writing in that regard, like the build-up in Carrie, for instance. And even though this is a “vampire story”, it totally doesn’t swing into the realms of contemporary vampire writing at all–it holds the classic Dracula mythos while adding its own set of unique details to the blend. This book’s use of multiple different perspectives, while it can get a bit old, actually works quite well, showing the interlinking of various individuals’ stories in the bigger picture to great effect. But I have to admit, the part I was most drawn to was definitely Oskar and Eli’s story, particularly the way these two grew together and grew as individuals after meeting each other. Which isn’t to say their relationship is a goody-goody “be a better person” sort of relationship at all; they’re neither of them great examples of morality. But maybe that is also a part of their draw to the reader. . . . In any case, for those mature readers who enjoy a chilling, detailed story with a bit of a fantasy/horror flair, Let the Right One In would be an excellent choice to try.

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