By October 25, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Oh, the Horrors

What scares you? In the staff book group at Williamsburg Regional Library, we were asked to choose books that might scare us. Here are some of the adult and young adult titles that our readers brought to the meeting.

Melissa likes Victorian stories, so she chose a collection of ghost stories from that era written by women. Edited by Mike Ashley, The Darker Sex successfully collects some writers  that are associated with ghost stories, such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Mary Wilkins Freeman, alongside writers more associated with other genres like E. Nesbit, George Eliot, and Emily Brontë.

Connie selected Before I Go to Sleep, a new novel by S. J. Watson, which has a plot reminiscent of the excellent film Memento. Protagonist Christine wakes up next to a man she doesn’t remember. In the bathroom, she discovers the face of a woman much older than she thinks believes herself to be staring back. The man says he is her husband Ben, and that since an accident 25 years ago, every morning is like this: she only has memory up to the fateful day. After he leaves for work, she receives another call from a doctor who suggests that she should consult her diary for more information, and that she shouldn’t trust Ben. Thus begins a debut that Connie agrees deserves the praise that it has received.

Cela brought Michael Koryta’s latest, The Ridge. A lighthouse built miles from water in landlocked Kentucky becomes more than an eccentric oddity when its builder commits suicide, leaving a note with a local journalist. A visit to the structure reveals maps that bear the names of people killed in local accidents, including the journalist’s parents. In a twist that oddly recalls the recent tragic story that played out in Ohio, one of the novel’s subplots concerns a woman who is growing increasingly afraid of the wild animals she keeps in her sanctuary. Koryta’s writing has recently taken a supernatural turn, and most readers seem to like it.

Rick Yancey’s young adult series of the same name starts with The Monstrumologist, the origin story of Will Henry, a nineteenth century New England orphan who takes up the work of the doctor whom he assists–monster hunting. Susan from our youth services division enjoyed the creepy gothic trappings and style and Yancey’s use of mythological characters, although at times the gore was more graphic than she would have preferred. Yancey has followed with two more well received books in the series, The Curse of the Wendigo and The Isle of Blood.

It had been many years since I’d tried Stephen King, so I decided to revisit a once-favorite author who somewhere along the line slipped out of my favor. The Long Walk, one of King’s book’s written as Richard Bachman, had everything positive I remembered. It’s the story of an alternate U. S. where every year one hundred teen boys compete in a walking race without breaks. Whenever one of them follows below four miles per hour he is warned, and after three warnings, he is summarily shot, all while crowds of fans watch the action. Only the last walker standing survives. While an homage in a way to Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery, this came out long before The Hunger Games or the bloodlust that modern viewers seem to feel regarding certain reality TV programs began. It’s a scary book with ever-rising suspense damaged only slightly by an ending that isn’t quite as good as the rest of the novel.

Our leader Cheryl’s selection this month was the Jack Dann and Nick Gevers-edited anthology Ghosts by Gaslight. A subtitle markets this as steampunk, and while Cheryl found the book to contain a more traditional variety of Victorian supernatural tale, she still enjoyed the stories. With writers like Peter S. Beagle, Garth Nix, Lucius Shepard and Caitlin Kittredge featured, I have no doubt that her assessment was correct.

What scary selections are coming to your book group in this Halloween season?

 

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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