A Book of Horrors

All posts tagged A Book of Horrors

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Published June 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Alice Through The Plastic Sheet all about?:

Alan and Alice have problem neighbours – they play the music too loud, they leave rubbish in the garden, they’re plastic and inhuman.

What did I think?:

Sigh. You know when you have high hopes for a story and go in feeling all excited just to feel bitterly disappointed at the end? This was the case with Alice Through The Plastic Sheet for me. From an author that I haven’t come across before with such a plethora of awards to his name (The World Fantasy Award, The British Fantasy Award, The Shirley Jackson Award…) I was expecting great things and was, unfortunately completely let down.

It’s the story of Alan and Alice, a married couple with a young son that when the story opens, seem to have a sedate, peaceful sort of life with seemingly perfect neighbours, Barbara and Eric living alongside them. Then after her husband’s death, Barbara puts the house up for sale and leaves the area, leaving Alan and Alice rather concerned about what neighbours they may be getting as replacements. They are right to feel tentative as when the new neighbours eventually move in their lives become hell on earth. Loud Christmas music is played at random points during the day and night, their dog barks constantly and viciously but when Alan attempts to go round and address the situation, he finds that their new neighbours aren’t at all what he expected. After this, their lives start spiralling out of control. Alan has troubles at work, their son becomes obnoxious and rude, their dog becomes sick with the stress of it all and his relationship with Alice starts to crumble. Are the new neighbours responsible for everything that is occurring? Or were the shaky foundations that their family is based on always fragile and liable to collapse?

Okay, positive things about this story (Yes, there are some!). I found that I absolutely had to read to the end. It was intriguing and I really couldn’t figure out what was going on so I was determined to finish it. You might know that I love a story with a bit of a quirky edge and this certainly has quirkiness – in bucket loads but I wonder was it too peculiar even for the likes of me? I think I understand what the author was trying to do by exploring relationships on the brink, the thin line between insanity and sanity and how easily you can be toppled into madness and also the aspect of the unknown, the things that make you feel uneasy but you can’t put your finger on exactly why they do. The creepiness of the neighbours unnerved me perhaps at one particular point in the narrative but I have to admit otherwise I was left pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. I didn’t have any strong feelings towards Alan or Alice as characters which left me feeling generally quite apathetic about what happened to them by the end of the story and, to be perfectly honest, just led to more confusion than resolution in the end.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Two

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

I’ve read some terrific stories in Part One of my Short Stories Challenge for 2017 so far! However stand out stories have to be The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew and The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Two!

The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories

The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Fruits by Steve Mosby from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Short Stories Challenge – Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Published October 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Getting It Wrong all about?:

Getting It Wrong takes a radio quiz show and the actions of “phoning a friend,” to horrifying new extremes.

What did I think?:

Ramsey Campbell is a name I’ve often heard in various circles as a master of the horror genre who has been churning out his work for the past fifty years, influenced and compared to H.P. Lovecraft by many. Even though he seems to have woefully passed me by, I was really excited to read some of his work and I’m happy to announce that his short story, Getting It Wrong, did not disappoint. It is obvious to me that the fluidity of the writing and chilling finale of this story comes from years of experience and he’s certainly mastered his craft.

This short story follows a few days in the life of Eric Edgeworth, who lives solely for films and the joy they bring him. None of this new rubbish you understand, but the classics, like Hitchcock and great actors like James Dean and Cary Grant. He works at the local cinema complex but sadly, doesn’t seem to have many friends, perhaps due to the age difference between them (usually a few decades) but he also seems to be somewhat of a loner. That is, until one night at midnight when he gets a strange telephone call to ask if he will be the expert friend on a quiz show for a lady he barely speaks to at work but is aware of, Mary Barton.

At first, Eric believes this to be some sort of joke that his colleagues are playing on him although he notices that Mary is becoming increasingly more terrified as he answers a question about a particular film wrong three times – unfortunately the maximum amount that is allowed. When he sees Mary at work the next day, he notices she has a rather large, bandaged finger but thinks nothing of it until once again that night, he is called to answer another film-based question for Mary of which she is desperate for him to get right. This is a radio show, there’s reasons for that and we begin to understand why it cannot/should not be broadcast on television. When Mary doesn’t turn up for work the next day and Eric has one final chance to help her, the tables begin to turn – NOT in Eric’s favour and this turns out to be the most deadly quiz show in history.

I really loved the way the author set this short story out, his brilliance in ramping up the tension, ever so slowly is undeniable and certain little lines, placed perfectly at certain points in the narrative gave me chills:

“It’s not a show for children, Mr Edgeworth.”

I had so many unanswered questions about both the characters and the narrative. Just why was Mary Barton doing this quiz show in the first place? Why didn’t Eric grab a moment to speak to her when he saw her at work after the first phone call? However, if these questions were answered for me, I don’t think it would have made the story as thrilling as it ended up being. Although I didn’t feel the characters were developed very far, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story-telling and I appreciated it for what it was, an exciting read with an ending that I’m still thinking about and wondering… just what happens next??

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Published March 3, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Music Of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer all about?:

A widower who is still struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife attempts to connect better with his son by encouraging him to take piano lessons. However, the notes that are played on the piano bring something different and very evil into their lives.

What did I think?:

I’ve only read one novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and it’s the most famous one – Let The Right One In which has also been made into a film. I remember so vividly the novel taking my breath away so my expectations for this story were set very high. I needn’t have worried though, this story was clearly Lindqvist at his horrific best and I thoroughly enjoyed every word I read. Our main character is a man who has fairly recently lost his beloved wife in a car accident and as well as dealing with his grief he is endeavouring to be able to communicate better with his son Robin, a battle that he fears he is losing.

Robin, like most children of his age spends a lot of his time in the virtual reality world of computer games but is quite open to bribery when his father offers to double his pocket money if he will start taking piano lessons. Things are going well and Robin seems to be enjoying the alternative way of amusing himself but it is when father and son move to a new secluded house in the forest that things start going a bit wrong. The house is smaller than their previous one so the piano sits quite comfortably in Robin’s bedroom and his father enjoys listening to him practice while he potters around the house.

One day however, Robin begins playing something a bit different. There does not seem to be a clear melody but the notes are repetitive and give his father an instant feeling of foreboding and unease. Stranger still, it has become normal to hear Robin’s voice in his bedroom as he talks to other gamers or uses Skype but one evening there is a power cut. Of course, you would expect there to be instant silence as the connections are cut – right? Wrong. Robin still continues to talk as if there were someone else in his bedroom but when his father checks, Robin is completely alone. He also continues to play those terrible notes on the piano whilst tears roll down his face as if he just cannot help himself, as if he is being forced to play the music.

I’m not going to give away any secrets about what exactly is going on in these characters lives but believe me, it’s absolutely terrifying. The author writes seamlessly and effortlessly about events that are eerie, deadly and in places, just plain grotesque. I never knew what to expect from page to page as things just seemed to get even worse for Robin and his father. I have a fairly vivid imagination and I’m certain that a few of the sentences and images that they conjured are forever etched in my memory! John Ajvide is a true master of the horror genre and it’s only made me more eager to get to the rest of his back catalogue.

Have you read this story? What did you think?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Published September 26, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Tell Me I’ll See You Again all about?:

Tell Me I’ll See You Again explores the strange things that keep happening to a young boy who is struggling to cope with a family tragedy.

What did I think?:

This was a really interesting little story that I don’t think really fits into the horror genre of this collection but certainly had its eerie moments and the more I think about it, the better it gets. When the story opens, we are walking with a young girl called Sherron who spots a cricket falling to the ground where it lies motionless, appearing to be dead. She picks it up, puts it into her pocket and continues walking. This is relevant information I promise! Then something happens that makes her uneasy, she sees her neighbours van driving past and a young boy pursuing the vehicle on a bike. This is the son of the van driver, David Donohue and one of her best friends. She begins to follow and is instantly terrified when she hears what seems to be a collision which causes her to run to the site of the assumed accident, their other friend Vincent in tow.

Sherron and Vincent find their friend David in a tangled heap with his bike, his eyes closed and not responding to their voices. Curiouser still, Vincent doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least and it turns out the four friends used to stage mock accidents last summer and score each other out of ten. (Vincent scores him eight by the way as it doesn’t seem as if he is even breathing). By tapping his head gently but firmly against the ground, Sherron brings him round and although slightly confused, he does not seem any worse for the episode. The dead cricket in her pocket also comes back to life and she also revives a seemingly dead possum from the roadside where David lay. What on earth is going on?!

Then the reader finds out that David has been experiencing a lot of these “fake deaths” ever since his mother and brother were killed in a horrific accident. He hates it when his father leaves the house without him which is why he raced off in pursuit of him. David also has terrible thoughts which he confides to Sherron in the hope that she may understand. Sherron wants to try and help him but he is remarkably resistant to her efforts or her “science project,” as she deposits her now very alive cricket with a few other insects in a glass jar. Again… what is going on?!

The author speeds up the action and fast-forwards the years of the children, letting us know what happened and flooring us with a brilliant last line that tells us everything and yet nothing at all! I have so many questions about this story that will most likely remain unanswered. Perhaps the author leaves it up to his reader to fill in the gaps? I did find this frustrating but in a good way as it kept my brain ticking around the story. If you don’t like ambiguous endings, this might be a bit maddening as there is too much which is just left unsaid. As this is the first thing I’ve ever read of Dennis Etchison’s work, I will definitely be checking out what else he has written. Tell Me I’ll See You Again was a fantastic short read that I really enjoyed and left me with lots to think about.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft