Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Novels to read this month

It's October. Time to talk horror. I'll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.

Right now I'm reading Blindsight, which is hard science fiction with a vampire and a handful of horrorible moments. Blindsight is one of those novels that don't come around often, something along the lines of Snow Crash and Pandora's Star in terms of balancing balls-to-the-wall entertainment with hard science fiction. I'm trying my hardest to savor the hell out of it. Each time a chunk of the puzzle is revealed, I go back and reread the first few chapters to see how it all ties together. I always notice something I didn't notice the first time. Some may say it's silly to have a main character who essentially lacks the ability to feel empathy, but they're wrong. I feel a warm connection with Siri Keeton and I don't think that says more about me than Siri himself and how Peter Watts has written him. You simultaneously pity him as well as envy his unique position among his fellow humans. He's a lot more human than he lets on.

Peter Watts on writing SF

And the novel's terrifying. Strictly speaking, it's undeniably science fiction, but it's the kind that unsettles you and everything you believe (in other words: the best kind). Watts has said he doesn't really believe the argument the book makes, but it's the kind of argument that's as plausible as it is mind-fucking. And it's fresh, so fresh. Without giving too much away, Blindsight supposes humans really are special little snowflakes in the grand scheme of things, but perhaps that's not a good thing. When the book was initially released, the publisher didn't give it the marketing it should have had (according to Watts) so Watts released it for free, which boosted sales after all was said and done. You can check out the free version here. The sequel just came out, too.

Another book that's in the "technically SF, but also horror" category is Greg Bear's Hull Zero Three. Although I found it to be disappointing, it's probably easier to swallow than Blindsight if you're not an SF junky. Come to think of it, Bear's Blood Music was pretty terrifying as well and it might be his best book. While we're on the subject of horror written by science fiction writers, FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard (yes, that Hubbard) is worth any price you can get, and Donovan's Brain by Curt Siodmak was a lot more influential on both science fiction and horror than most people realize. FEAR and Donovan's Brain are easy reads, the kind of stuff you can read in one day.

The older I get, the more I like Stephen King. There was a time I was annoyed his name was forever connected with horror (and repeatedly mentioned), but let's face it: he's earned it. I think my favorite thing about King is the fact he's rich as hell, but hasn't lost an ounce of the everyday charm that fuels his stories. The guy has pumped out so much stuff it's hard to assign just one as "my favorite," but as far as pure enjoyment goes, Misery is probably number one for me. In terms of legitimate scares, however, The Shining takes the cake. I don't know what it is about that one in particular, but I love it.

It's not often I love each book in a trilogy equally, but Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lector series kick all kinds of ass. Those who have only seen Hannibal the movie may wonder what it's doing on this list, but the book is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better. The ending is much better than the film version and overall it's a worthy conclusion to Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. Clarice's final destination may have been too sick for Hollywood to film, but it's the ending we all deserved.

Joe Hill is, hands down, my favorite newish writer (I know he's been around for a while, but it seems like yesterday when his first novel hit the stands). As for novels, he's three and three with Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2, the latter of which I have thought about every single day since finishing it. The Gas Mask Man (Bing, Bing, you terrible thing) got into my head. I can't wait to see what's next.

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