Even though I didn’t officially participate in RIP this year, I decided to only read creepy things in October: thrillers and horror and post-apocalyptic wastelands and psychological page-turners! I think I succeeded. I didn’t necessarily love everything I read, but I’m very glad I read it all.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – I have been meaning to read this forever. My friend at work and I have a “book club of two” where we read the same book and text each other during the process. It’s a lot of fun and it all started when we happened to read The Rules of Civility at the same time. We both loved it. Unfortunately, all of our other books have been… well, let’s just say not our favorites since then. Rebecca, though, was a book I have such conflicted feelings about! There were parts I absolutely loved, but there is also a big part of me that hated a lot of it. I felt a little cheated by the ending and I just wanted something more. Also, I thought there were ghosts? I kept waiting for the ghosts to show up.
I tweeted this and Chris had a great response: “But there are ghosts of the past!” Too true, Chris.
Creepiness factor out of 10: 5. There were some really creepy parts of this! Especially since you don’t really understand what’s going on for most of the story. Mrs. Danvers scores at least an 8.
The Outside by Laura Bickle – I talk a lot about Laura Bickle’s Amish vampire saga, because it seems like such a mash up of popular fiction tropes, but seriously, it works. Don’t go into expecting the most amazing writing you’ve ever read, but it is dark and gritty and an interesting addition to the vampire story. The main character is Amish and her world is upended when a vampirism epidemic strikes. I don’t want to give away too much, but her Amish upbringing is a HUGE part of the plot. There are some character inconsistencies throughout the story and it’s not perfectly polished, but it’s totally worth the read. There are a lot of interesting discussions of religion in here. I have no idea how accurate Bickle’s portrayal of the Amish culture is, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Creepiness factor: 6. The vampires in the first book were terrifying and they don’t have as much of a roll in this one, but there’s a lot of meditation on loneliness and doing what is right, even if it is hard. It is certainly creepy to think about.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers – I got this book from Book Smuggler Thea and she promised that it was an antidote to my dissatisfaction with The Age of Miracles. And it was, in a lot of ways, and then I had my own problems with it as it went along. In this story, there is a mysterious illness that begins killing pregnant mothers before they can give birth. All women are given an implant that prevents them from becoming pregnant and everyone is sure that it is the end of humanity. Except, there might be a way to save the world. It only requires the sacrifice of willing young women who will give up their lives to save their unborn children. The main character, Jessie Lamb, is thrown into the middle of the debate about what to do and whether it is right. While the symbolism was a little bit obvious, I liked that there was a bit more action in this one, but the narrative felt similarly removed. I wasn’t experiencing anything that was happening as it was happening. I wonder if this is a bigger problem I have with diary or epistolary novels. Which is funny, because I’m trying to write one. What if I end up hating my own story? Sorry this mini review divulged into personal writing anxiety.
Creepiness factor: 4. This book was definitely bleak, but I don’t know if it was really creepy.
The Resurrectionist by EB Hudpeth – I really admire Quirk Books for the risks they’re willing to take on narrative structure. This book starts out with a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, a late 19th century doctor who begins out as a promising physician but who eventually descends into madness. He believes that physical deformities are proof that creatures like the sphinx and the harpy once truly existed. The deformities are memories. The second half of the book are his anatomically “correct” drawings of the mystical creatures as he believed them to exist. Again, I felt too removed from the story. I think I would have liked this a lot better if instead of a fictional biography it was actually just a novel. It wasn’t quite compelling enough. That said, the story was so creepy and weird, and the drawings were really interesting.
Creepiness factor: 9. There were some truly horrifying, stomach-turning scenes in this fictional biography.
I started out making this one post, but it just got too long, so you will have to wait until tomorrow for part two!