Tag Archives: Horror fiction

In The Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami Review

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Recently I have been reading about the most depraved and detestable human beings I have ever come across in fiction and I am loving every minute of it. Douglas Coupland Chuck Palahniuk and Patrick Hamilton, to name a few, have really engaged me to a slightly worrying degree. The characters are unpredictable and unapologetic which keeps me firmly on the edge of my seat.

Reads like the script notes for American Psycho – The Holiday Abroad”

The Guardian

Even though I think this is an awful quote (Really? American Psycho – The Holiday Abroad? That’s a straight to Netflix sequel if I’ve ever heard one) and on refection doesn’t do give this book enough credit, but It was enough to get the hooks in. That and the stunning cover.

Twenty year-old Kenji is a Japanese “nightlife” guide for foreigners — he navigates “Gaijin” men around the sex clubs and hostess bars of Tokyo. He receives a phone call from an American named Frank, who seeks three nights of his services. While Kenji has promised to spend more time with his girlfriend, sixteen year-old Jun, the money is too good to pass up. Though she does not really figure in the proceedings and Murakami seems more interested in the relationship that develops between Kenji and Frank, a warped form of friendship, fueled by fear but also by fascination. He finds himself closing out the end of the year accompanying Frank around Shinjuku, wondering if his strange, plastic-skinned patron could be responsible for the gruesome events recently reported in the news.

Its a fascinating book. The relationship between the two of them, twists and turns through out but its Frank that really makes this novel stand out. His mental regression from wealthy business man to bumbling child is astonishing and the constant tease of him falling off the cliff, whether its in Kenji’s mind or physically acted, increases the tension between the two.

When this finally happens and Franks identity becomes clear, around the middle of the novel, The tense relationship changes once again in a scene of sickening violence that is both compelling and repulsive. It is relatively short but shocking never the less, and it is impossible to finish the rest without a heightened level of anxiety.

In The Miso Soup is short be very sweet and putting the possible political stance to one side, it’s a thoughtful novel about what its like to be lonely or have a lack of identity. Its modern Noir at its best and somehow, through all the darkness and ambiguity you still come away hopeful for all involved

Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments or on twitter @europaoutlaw

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StephenKing.com Announces “Mr Mercedes”

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Mr. Mercedes has now been officially announced on King’s official site. The release date is set to June 3rd 2014. He calls it his first hard-boiled detective book about a deranged terrorist with a bomb. King said he began it before the Boston Marathon bombing, but the events were “too creepy for comfort.”

As I can’t seem to get enough of the hard-boiled genre, This has excited me more than the announcement for Doctor Sleep and I can only hope that it matches the level of emotion of, hard case crime outing, Joyland

Who knows how good it will be but with a release date of early June us Constant Readers wont have to long to find out

Check out Cemetery Dance for a special slip cased edition. I got their 25th anniversary of IT which was stunning.

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Doctor Sleep – Stephen King Book Review

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‘Stay away from the woman in the hat, Honeybear.’

‘She’s the Queen bitch of Castle Hell. If you mess with her, she’ll eat you alive.’

If you have read my earlier post, leading up to the release of Doctor Sleep, you know that while I was looking forward to reading, macabre maestro, Stephen King’s latest offering, I wasn’t as excited as I normally am for one of his new books. I’ve been a “Constant reader” for the last ten years and, while he is one of my favourite authors, betting on a winning horse just isn’t quite the same as the discovery of a hidden gem. It’s must be a similar feeling to supporting a team who constantly wins, but after finishing book 64, there isn’t anything quite like THIS winning horse. There’s nobody that can touch a nerve like Stephen King.

Doctor Sleep picks up with the now middle aged Danny Torrance following in the footsteps of his father…an alcoholic. Like father, like son. Dan’s justification is that the booze suppresses his “Shining”, his supernatural abilities that plague his everyday life and rules his nightmares. The drink holds back the ghosts of The Overlook.

Dan eventually lands in rural New Hampshire and begins working in a hospice where, with the help of the hospice cat Azzie, he helps the elderly pass on with his ‘Shining’ ability. This earns him the nickname Doctor Sleep and with regular AA meetings and good people around him, Dan finally has all he really wants.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old and married to their RVs. The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the ‘steam’ that children with the ‘shining’ produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Dan meets Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining he’s ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival.

A few things make this book great, King’s own battle against drug and alcohol addiction makes Dan’s AA scenes completely believable, as are Dan’s thoughts towards the drink and himself. King books are known for giving nods towards his other works but even though they’re still there, the biggest nod goes to his son’s fantastic horror novel NOS4R2, which sent a shiver up my spine.

King is, and probably will always be, my favourite author. His characters breathe the same air we do and even though most of their road blocks are based in supernatural settings, the ways in which they have to deal with them are entirely human.

This book will attract some negativity because The Shining is so well loved, but Doctor Sleep is a brilliant sequel. The author is a completely different person to the drug filled alcoholic who sat down to write about Jack and the Outlook Hotel as are his constant readers and the thought of King evolving his style and outlook on the craft excites this constant reader

Doctor Sleep is published by Hodder and Stoughton and is available now.

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Stephen King – Doctor sleep. How excited can a “Constant Reader” be?

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I dipped in and out of reading when I was younger, only picking up the most interesting covers from the library, namely books from the GooseBumps series and the occasional Harry Potter. I remember going into W.H.Smith, when I was a lot older, and seeing Duma Key in the paperback chart.

Stephen King is probably the best writer there is, mate,” my dad said. “But that one is pretty awful.”

Being the stubborn child I was/am, I bought it anyway and absolutely fell into the pages, not able to put it down. I was spending ridiculous amounts of time on my PlayStation, so anything that got me off that was a blessing. A good few years and a great many books later, I’m still excited to have a new King novel but…

…Doctor Sleep (Shining 2) is not The Dark Tower. I’m not saying it won’t be good and that I wont enjoy it, because I am biased, and I’m not saying I want him to continue with the Dark Tower, but a part of me knows I won’t get the same reaction as with those defining novels.

Here’s the teaser from http://www.stephenking.com/promo/doctor_sleep/

“On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in Stephen’s canon.”

Joyland, King’s offering from earlier this year, was excellent.  Review here: https://europaoutlaw.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/stephen-king-joyland/

This may have slightly dampened the excitement for another novel.

After hammering his books for the last five years, I do feel I’ve had his best and that makes my eye wander up the spines of someone else’s books.

That’s a good thing, right? Shouldn’t we always be inspired to sample as many different opinions as possible?

King will always be one of, if not my favourite author but I’m ready to go for something different. I want to be somebody else’s ‘Constant Reader’ and have the same feeling of total immersion I had for his work early on.

When I get to the end of “Doctor Sleep” I know I’m going to love it, but does that take an edge off it? Is the film you expected to be shite but turns out fantastic a better feeling than going to see a safe bet?

The only thing you can say, without any prejudice, is nobody knows. I’m sure it’s that air of doubt that keeps people coming back for more and even though 95% of me thinks this will fall in line as another good novel, that other, cheeky 5% is swinging back and forth from thinking it’s going to be amazing to utter rubbish.

One last thing is I really don’t like the UK cover.

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Which one would you pick? I’ve recently spotted a new book called Cat Sense, all about the psychology of cats, with pretty much same cover, but then again a lot of people did buy a Street Cat Named Bob…. Perhaps this says more about the animal loving British public and that a cute cat will probably appeal more than a rotting face…

Pre- order Doctor sleep Now published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd in the UK

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/stephen+king/doctor+sleep/9447644/

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Clive Barker – Imajica

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This is what it’s like when dominions collide

First on the list of my favourite books is Imajica. Clive Barker is as big as they come in Horror fiction but isn’t as big is I think he deserves to be. There aren’t many people I can talk to about Clive’s work, unless referring to Hellraiser perhaps, so fingers crossed this will help. This book for me was a huge insight into just how far an imagination could stretch and is the bench mark for vision that I have yet to find an equal for. 

Earth is one of five dominions and once every two hundred years, when the five are aligned, a powerful magician may be able to crack the void that keeps apart the other four dominions and earth. Not everyone wants the “Reconciliation” to happen and they will go to whatever lengths to stop earth contacting the other worlds.

John Furie Zacharias, or Gentle, is a troubled artist. His eccentric lifestyle has pushed away nearly everything and this leaves him trying to come to terms with his frequent lover being with someone else. When Judith’s husband hires shape shifting assassin, Pie ‘oh’ Pah to kill her, Gentle, as he tries to stop it, becomes involved with Pie and they embark on a journey across the five dominions, from glittering cities to haunted mountains, where they must face Gentle’s fate. The journey pulls at the readers emotions  as much as the characters with twists and turns in ways you will never see coming as they realize they are more connected than first thought. Complicated as the story may seem, I never felt overwhelmed by it.

I’ve heard many different views on this book since I read it more than two years ago now and not one of them has been the same. This has to be a good thing. Even though Barker is sometimes criticised for his vivid descriptions of sex and violence, I feel he hit every note with this one and produced five worlds, populated with vivid characters and settings that stick in your mind. I have found with some of his other books that his style, in which makes this great, misses the mark to the point of boredom. I recognize how beautifully descriptive the prose is but after a few minutes I find myself back on Twitter. Imajica is not a book you can put down so easily as Clive shifts though the storytelling gears.

Trying to recommend this book to people is a struggle before you even tell them the story. Imajica definitely resembles a house brick coming in at over 1,200 pages of tiny text. Please don’t let this put you off. This is one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege of picking up and the effort you think will be needed when starting it turns out to be well worth it. I’m hoping I can connect with some of Barker’s other work as well as I did this one, as The Great and Secret Show is the only other I’ve been blown away by. At the moment this books sits pretty in my top ten favourite novels and I can’t see it being replaced although it would be nice to find the book that does.

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NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

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Gingerbread will never taste the same again.

Even though I’m a huge fan of Joe Hill’s books, and the incredible Locke & Key Series, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the online hype from horror fans. The two main tag lines of “creepy” and “terrifying”, I always ignore. Books do not, unfortunately, scare me. It’s the same with films or TV shows. The reason why is probably oversaturation to horror books and films from an early age which leads me to never take any notice of lines such as “you will sleep with the light on”. I just need a little more than “scariest book of the year” and because ninety percent of horror published will use this, an author without Joe’s reputation will struggle to be seen by the general shelf browsing customer. I think I will write another post about how horror fiction is perceived in a chain bookstore. The other was “you will never look at a Rolls- Royce the same again”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Rolls-Royce in person so I thought this a bit of a weird selling point to be afraid of something I will never see but after reading this now I hope I never see one.

NOS4R2 is Joe Hill’s third book and it’s definitely, for me, the one to break all doubts of whether he can become a mainstream hit. It follows the story of Victoria McQueen and vampire-like Charlie Manx. As a child, Vic discovers she has a knack for finding things by hopping on her Raleigh Bike and using the Shorter Way Bridge, made from her mind, to arrive exactly where she wants to be. This to me is a brilliant tool for a quick change of scenery and really helps drive the plot along at Triumph motorcycle-like speeds.

Charlie Manx, also capable of using his mind to reach where we humans cannot, uses a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith to transport young children to Christmasland, where it’s always Christmas morning, whist draining them of all unhappiness and thus turning back his own body clock. The only problem for the unlucky child unable to escape the back seat is constant happiness meaning you love everything that is placed in front of you. Even murder.

NOS4R2 is full of edge-of-your-seat moments and also some pretty dark scenes but without going over the top. Charlie Manx’s little helper Bing is a pretty horrific character who wears a gas mask and likes to speak in rhymes. He also likes to use stolen aesthetic gas on the children’s mums, which smells like Gingerbread, and takes them back to his ‘House of Sleep’. This makes for an incredible evil and interesting double act. The whole cast are painfully memorable and it makes them extremely hard to leave as you finish this book.

I’m excited by the possibility of twenty years from now I’ll be picking up a copy of Joe’s latest book and thinking NOS4R2 was where  he started getting the recognition he deserves. Really tight and well thought out novels like this one, plus the film adaptation of Horns, should take his career to new heights, which is something the man really deserves. His dad should be proud.

Shortly after finishing this novel I was lucky enough to run an in-store signing with Joe at Waterstones Deansgate, Manchester and seeing the way he interacted with the queue and how he put a certain nervous bookseller completely at ease was fantastic and incredibly rare. He had an infinite amount of time for every single person and, which you can tell from his twitter feed, he seems completely in love with the industry, constantly referencing books and asking what titles are exciting people apart from his own.

NOS4R2 is a must read and not just for horror fans but to anyone interesting in genre fiction.  If that doesn’t sell this to you I think Dan Brown has a new one out.

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