When I received my review copy of The Devouring it came with a sticker on the front cover stating that I could get my money back if it wasn’t scarier than Darren Shan. Although I didn’t actually pay for this book, if I had I would definitely not be making use of this offer - I am a Darren Shan fan but The Devouring is much, much scarier.
I’m an absolute sucker for horror. I love it. Films, books, anything. Stephen King is my idol and I do wish there was more young adult horror. I find it’s either adult (which is fine by me but it’s not what I review) or a little too young for teens. Slight grumble aside, The Devouring is exactly what I’d been looking for. Perfect for teens, absolutely terrifying and brilliantly written. Definitely check it out - if you can stomach it.
The cover generated a lot of buzz on the blogs over the last few months and if you look at the picture I’ve included at the top of this review I’m sure you can see why. It’s bold, in your face and extremely graphic - lovely stuff. The cover does set the tone for the rest of the book, though, so if that freaks you out you may be best to avoid this one. It really is scary.
The Vours are horrible, horrible villains. Ruthless, hell bent on nothing but terrifying their victims and scarily intelligent, they’re fantastic to read about. Holt’s description is second to none and I almost had to put the book down a couple of times to calm myself before I carried on - all the signs of a brilliant horror novel.
I think this one would work brilliantly in film. The Vours are so visual and there are so many scenes that I really saw playing out in my head as I was reading them - lots of drowning and nightmares and that excellent scene at the funfair. Funfairs have always creeped me out - and clowns. Yes, both of these feature in The Devouring. Awesome.
If you’re not a horror fan and you’re easily scared then I would exercise a little caution before reading The Devouring. I loved it but then again I love being scared. If you’re prone to freaking yourself out then you probably will have nightmares to be honest - but a little scare isn’t going to hurt anyone. Be brave and pick up a copy of this brilliant book.
Let me start by saying that everything you need to know about Now You're One of Us is perfectly conveyed on the cover. Really, this has to be my favourite cover of all time. I bought the book knowing absolutely nothing about the story but I knew it was going to be great with that cover. Just...so...icky. Pube in the soap!
I suppose I should also preface this review by saying that if you're uptight about, well, pretty much anything then Now You're One of Us probably isn't for you. I'm about as relaxed as they come and it had me raising my eyebrows. A quick flick through the reviews on Goodreads shows this one wasn't a hit with a lot of readers and it's clear a lot of people found it shocking. Yes, there are some shocking moments but they're not the biggest part of this book. It's a fantastic, gothic family saga-cum-horror and I loved it.
Noriko is such a brilliant lead. I felt everything she felt - when she was beginning to feel a little creeped out by her new family, I was too, when she felt guilty for insulting them after they were so sweet and treated her so well, I completely got it. She's great. She isn't one of those delicate heroines who is too scared to say her piece - while she tries to be polite at all times, Noriko isn't afraid to have a little tiff now and then and her wild outbursts at various family members were so well written.
From page one there's an unsettling tone and it doesn't dip as the novel progresses. In fact, it grows and grows until the last quarter of the story - where everything goes straight to crazy town. Seriously, bat shit crazy. I did finish reading with a certain feeling of 'wtaf?' (the 'a' is for actual, by the way - which means things got seriously weird) but I loved it. It was awesome - something I read purely for enjoyment (for a while I wasn't going to review it).
I would absolutely love to see a well-made movie version but equally, I think a badly made version would probably made me throw up - I can see it now. Ew.
As I said earlier on, if you have any sort of inhibitions then this book probably isn't for you but if creepy is your thing and the thought of pubes on soap piques your interest then definitely check out Now You're One of Us. It's evil and brilliant in equal measure.
When I picked up a copy of Heart Shaped Box I had no idea that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. I'm an absolutely huge Stephen King fan and like to pride myself on knowing his writing style inside out. By the time I'd read a couple of chapters of Heart Shaped Box it was clear that the writer had picked up a few quirks from Stephen King - it wasn't exactly his style but this and that just reminded me of his books, particularly his earlier stories.
I am impressed that Hill has gone it alone with his writing - he's always written under a pen name and always refers to his father as 'Dad', rather than 'my father, Stephen King', which it must have been tempting to do. He's definitely earned his popularity based on his great storytelling, rather than having his career handed to him because of his father. Yay for that.
Heart Shaped Box is an unsettling read and feels incredibly real, which I think is what makes it so creepy. There isn't much gore or blood - instead it's the psychological side of things that will linger with you after you finish the book. While Hill's metaphors got a little repetitive towards the end of the book, the characters were brought to life so well that I couldn't stop reading - I had to know how it all ended.
Oh, also, the dogs were brilliant - some of the most vibrant characters in the book. They were just fab. Look out for them if you decide you check out Heart-Shaped Box, they will make you smile and make you cry.
Last year I reviewed Blood Water by Dean Vincent Carter for Chicklish and commented on how much I loved the film feel it had. It’s always important for a horror novel to be visual and making me see the scene in my head is the most terrifying thing a writer can do. I’m really pleased to say that Sam Enthoven is a master at this and reading Crawlers was a brilliant experience from beginning to end.
Ben and Jasmine are our heroes in this fight against a parasitic plague of ‘crawlers’, horrific creatures that swarm the Barbican Theatre in London (the wonderful setting for this story) and take over the mind of their human host. Teamed with only their quick thinking and dysfunctional school friends, Ben and Jasmine have a matter of hours to escape the crawlers and their Queen, whose simple wish is to control the mind of every human on the planet.
One of the things that makes Crawlers so unique is the fact it is set (almost) in real time. The whole novel (bar the epilogue) takes place over a single evening and the fast pace Enthoven had to write at really keeps the tempo up the entire way through. It doesn’t slow down for a moment and by the time I turned the final page, I was exhausted.
The story really does play out like a classic horror film; just when you start to relax, another body slams into the wall/crawler bursts through the ceiling etc etc – you catch my drift. This is the novel’s strength but it’s also a weakness.
The short time frame means we don’t get a chance to bond with any of the characters. Enthoven tries to make us feel for Ben and Jasmine but there simply isn’t enough time to get to know them. In horror particularly, it’s important to care about the characters, otherwise there’s nothing to root for. But Ben spends far too much of the novel worrying that he isn’t popular enough, and not enough time crushing crawlers with a spade. And Jasmine is supposed to be the pretty girl who’s trying to build a better life for herself, and we're constantly reminded that she’s better than the other girls in her class.
Is she really, though? Sure, Lisa’s a weirdo (sorry to be blunt) and Lauren/Samantha (who are pretty interchangeable) are definitely portrayed a stereotypical chavs, but all Jasmine really seems to do is look down on them for not being quite as perfect as she is.
That said, the story of Crawlers is fantastic, the writing is great and the tension is brilliant. I’d recommend this book to anybody who loves a bit of old-school horror, and fingers crossed we’ll be seeing a Sam Raimi style screen adaptation before too long.
Now that characters in horror films are often knowledgeable about the rules of horror films (thanks, Wes), it seems about time that characters facing a zombie apocalypse should also be aware of basic preventative measures. Tony Faville's KINGS OF THE DEAD, written in the form of diary entries by a former military man, Cole, acknowledges the mass of information the movies have provided its hero – although the novel starts some time after the dead initially rose, he recalls that his forward thinking in organising rations, weapons and a safe house began as a fantasy “what if?” challenge brought upon by his love of zombie films.
As with most modern zombie tales, KINGS OF THE DEAD follows the same general premise: a group of people attempting to survive the apparently global pandemic of reanimated corpses. What is refreshing is that the “human factor”, frequently referred to by Cole as more dangerous than the zombies themselves, does not cause too many problems for the group; they are predominantly careful, cautious and civilised. There is mention of raiders and an early encounter with cannibals, but within the group itself there is little friction. They are organised as well, and tend not to make stupid mistakes like so many characters make all too often in the movies – perhaps as a result of their appreciation for the genre, they've learned from other people's mistakes.
As stories go, Cole's is not particularly innovative or original, but it is easy to keep turning the pages. He reports on events and situations much as one would expect a diary to be written – predominantly short entries with few transcribed conversations, so it really is his voice and his alone that the reader becomes accustomed to. Consequently, while the other characters are well-rounded enough to be believable, when misfortune occurs – as it inevitably does – the reader is encouraged to sympathise with Cole's feeling of loss, confusion or anger. As time passes and the group gets smaller, Cole's mental health comes into question, bringing to mind Richard Matheson's classic sci-fi novel, I AM LEGEND.
Faville's book, despite the seemingly limited options for zombie stories, does provide some new concepts for the genre. The cause of the disease is explained by a contemporary issue, which is smart but will not help the novel date well. The zombies are a clever combination of old and new – the sluggish, rotting undead are commonplace, but some fast-moving, more mentally aware zombies exist too, and this evolution is explained well. Some briefly mentioned observations suggest a few relatively new ideas, though they are not expanded upon, while there are some genuinely funny moments to break the largely bleak apocalyptic conditions. Although the final few pages locate the story in a much wider context than it began with, it works best when following the everyday actions of Cole and his friends – Faville seems to understand that the most interesting aspect of any zombie story is not the actions of the dead, but the living.