October 25, 2013 § 3 Comments
Bram Stoker’s DRACULA was first published 116 years ago, but don’t go thinking that this means Count doesn’t belong on this list. The myth of the vampire is centuries old, but Stoker’s Gothic tale is widely considered the vampire’s true introduction to popular culture. Since the publication of Dracula in 1897, vampire stories have retained the popularity of Dracula. Compared to the uncanny creepiness of Count Dracula, though, many vampires…pale in comparison (not sorry).
The Count has manifested in other literary incarnations over the years. Of particular note is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which brings the Dracula mythos into the realm of historical fiction. NOS4R2, another recent success in the world of vampire lit, is the breakout novel of Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, and it’s worth a look if you’re a King fan!
Dementors are among the creepiest beings I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. Skeletal, hooded creatures with decaying skin and rattling breath, they guard the wizard prison Azkaban. They serve dual functions at Azkaban: they’re both a deterrent against criminal activity, and they stop prisoners trying to escape. How do they do this? They gradually suck the intelligence, hope and happiness out of anyone near them. Those deserving of the gravest punishment will be subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss, which is essentially spiritual rape – the Dementors forcibly pull the very soul out of your body. If they didn’t make your skin crawl when you first read about them, you’re made of stronger stuff than I.
If you didn’t suffer from coulrophobia before reading It, you probably came down with a strong case afterward. Although Pennywise is actually a shape-shifting being with the capacity to take the form of whatever its victim most fears, most of us remember It as the clown lurking in the storm drain. Although the book is widely considered to be one of King’s best, it is undoubtedly Tim Curry’s nightmarish portrayal of Pennywise that haunts our nightmares. The combination of his gravelly voice, the absurdity of the clown make-up and the sudden shock of the fangs is sure to have your skin crawling.
Immacolata’s sisters from Clive Barker’s Weaveworld
Clive Barker blurs the lines between horror and fantasy in Weaveworld. Not your typical sword-and-sorcery tale, Weaveworld is about a world encapsulated within a woven tapestry, and the forces that are unleashed when it comes to life. Immacolata, the Big Bad of Weaveworld, is an all-powerful witch with some serious skeletons in her closet. Although she strangled her triplet sisters in the womb, they continue to exist as monstrosities in the Weaveworld. The Hag and The Magdalene, as the sisters are known, are co-dependent ectoplasmic entities. The Magdalene frequently accosts unsuspecting men and then gives birth to monstrous children; The Hag then divines the future from their afterbirth. Needless to say, Weaveworld is a dark book…
I think we can all be glad that there are no photos of these things floating around online…
What would a post about literary monsters be without The Great Old One himself (itself?)? Cthulhu first emerged from the depths in H. P. Lovecraft’s story, “The Call of Cthulhu”, published in 1928. When I first read this shorty story, I was taken aback by its overtly academic tone. Having prepared myself for a primitive creature feature, I was surprised to find that “The Call of Cthulhu” is essentially about one man’s research into a cult that worships The Great Old Ones – beings that slumber in the recesses of the earth, preparing to one day rise again. Our protagonist ends up being driven mad by the very reality of Cthulhu, who is said to resemble a hybrid of octopus, dragon, cuttlefish and humanoid. Oh, and he’s green.
In the interest of coming clean, I am not a true horror aficionado. I do enjoy the occasional horror novel, but I think the true experts in the field are you, the readers. So tell me – what monsters should be on this list that I’ve missed out?
If you would like to order Stephen King’s It, Joe Hill’s NOS4R2, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Weaveworld or any of Lovecraft’s works, head over to Pulp Fiction Booksellers, give them a call on (07) 3236-2750 , or add them as a friend on Faceboook.
October 22, 2013 § 7 Comments
1. House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski
House of Leaves is the tale of a family whose house is expanding on the inside, but not on the outside. What makes this book so disturbing is not the subject matter exactly, but the convoluted way that the story is told. Danielewski paints a portrait of unravelling sanity, but it’s not like anything you’ve ever experienced before. House of Leaves is a book that must be read in print, as there is simply no way to transcribe its format to an e-reader or tablet. It will have you frantically flipping pages, turning the book upside-down and scribbling notes. You’ll sit down to read a few pages one morning, and the first time you look up from the book, it’ll be midnight. In short, House of Leaves will consume you.
2. The Shining and Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
Alright, so it’s a bit of a cop-out to include The Shining in a list of scariest books. The Shining was published in 1977, so surely, it’s a given that it’s one of the top picks for Halloween?
Be that as it may, The Shining deserves special mention this year. Thirty-six years after its publication, Stephen King has released a sequel to his infamous novel – Doctor Sleep. Centring on the son of the protagonist of The Shining, Doctor Sleep is already gathering critical acclaim. I am yet to read it, but I think it will be my go-to on Halloween night!
3. The Descent – Jeff Long
I’m only halfway through The Descent, but I’m calling this one early – this book is scary as hell. Literally. And let me tell you, the 2005 film is but a mere teaser of the horrors that await you in Jeff Long’s original novel. When some unsuspecting hikers are trapped in a cave in remote Tibet, they inadvertently make the biggest discovery in known history. Underneath the surface of the earth is a sub-planet, populated with a species known as “hadals”. The world is rocked by the scientific revelation that should never have been – Hell is a real place, and it is beneath our feet. More detailed review to come, but suffice it to say, since I started this book, I haven’t been sleeping so well…
4. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
Although it’s not your traditional spooky Halloween novel, The Silence of the Lambs remains the most frightening novel that I have ever read. I don’t think that there is anything that scares me more than the sheer inescapability of Hannibal Lecter’s will. If he wants something from you, he will find a way to obtain it, and there is very little chance that you will be able to outsmart him in the process. He’s one of the most terrifying characters you will ever encounter. The fact that Hannibal is human (rather than supernatural) makes him all the more monstrous – especially given that he is an amalgamation of real-life serial killers. Side note: The Silence of the Lambs is the exception to the rule that the book is better than the film. In my opinion, the two are equally excellent.
5. World War Z – Max Brooks
Are you concerned about the possibility of a zombie apocalypse? No? Read World War Z and I guarantee, you will be. This is the story of the breakdown of global society, told through the eyes of the UN Postwar Commision in the form of documents from all over the world. Beginning with “patient zero” in rural China, World War Z tracks the transmission of the virus that rapidly decimates the world’s population. Author and zombie aficionado Max Brooks takes the story of the apocalyptic epidemic and traces the environmental, social and political effect it has on the world. World War Z scared me half to death because it’s all so official. It’s easy to remember that other zombie stories are fiction because they’re told to us in a more familiar format. However, when you read governmental reports and WHO press releases detailing the way the international community is going to cope with the end of the world, the actuality of it begins to affect you.
Now, who’s ready to start planning their zombie apocalypse strategies?
What will you be reading this Halloween? Are you a fan of horror, and do you have any recommendations for the rest of us who only dabble?
August 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
I don’t know about you guys, but when I find out that one of my favourite books is being adapted to film, I immediately start micro-stressing. Will they cast the characters the way I see them in my head? Will they change important plot points? Will this book, that I have privately enjoyed for so long, now be the domain of a vapid fan-base, like Twilight was?
Film is a completely different medium to the novel, and it communicates with viewers in a wholly different way. Because of this, there is no way that a film can exactly replicate the experience of reading a beloved novel. We all know this. Sometimes, though, an astute filmmaker will somehow manage to capture the essence of the original book. That special, intangible element, unique to each and every novel, has survived the gruelling transition from page to screen, and the film becomes a special one because of it. These are five adaptations that we think did their base novels justice.
The Lovely Bones (Kalystia)
There is something very special about this novel. In reading The Lovely Bones, the reader is transported from the hellish nightmare of Susie Salmon’s rape and murder, to heaven, where Susie watches over her grieving family. I have cherished The Lovely Bones since I first read it in high school. I know the novel inside out (some sections word for word, even), so I was sceptical about a film adaptation.
But it was perfect.
Saorise Ronan embodied Susie’s frozen innocence and indescribable grief at being abducted from life. The colour palette of the film was stunning. The plot was faithful to the novel, even to the smallest details. The atmosphere of the novel was translated perfectly into the film, which was at once surreal and gritty. It was a wonderful adaptation.
The Mortal Instruments (Kalystia)
I admit I’m not the biggest fan of The Mortal Instruments series. I enjoyed them, but lost interest by the fourth one. The continuation of the series screams “money-making” to me… That said, I saw the film last Friday, and I think that the realm of Downworlders and Shadowhunters has been brought to life on the big screen. The Institute is lavish and exquisitely rendered, and the opening scene in Pandemonium was exactly as I’d pictured it. I thought Lilly Collins was well-cast as Clary, and Lena Headey was great as Jocelyn. Yeah, okay, Magnus Bane was a little wooden in his delivery, and Jace was very different to the way I’d pictured him in the novel, but Isabelle’s whip made up for it all. I recommend seeing this if you like urban fantasy.
The Prestige (Kalystia)
I can’t really explain why The Prestige was such a brilliant adaptation without giving away a major spoiler. What I can say, though, is that Christopher Nolan took the (somewhat boring) base text and reworked part of its narrative structure. The end result is a magnificent thriller which builds to a tense finale, and one of the best twist-endings you’ll ever see. The Prestige is a testament to Nolan’s storytelling prowess. The fact that he could tell the same story as the novel and achieve such a phenomenally different end result just goes to show that he is deserving of all the praise that is heaped upon him! Incidentally, The Prestige is one of the very few movies which is undeniably better than its printed counterpart.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (The Swedish original – itsnotnatalie)
What can I say other than I loved, loved, LOVED this movie?! I immensely enjoyed the book (and its sequels) and this fantastic adaptation expertly transfers all the grittiness, frustration and energy of Larsson’s work from page to screen. Usually, I am firmly in the book is better camp, but I think here the movie has a slight edge – Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth and is utter perfection in the role.
I Capture The Castle (itsnotnatalie)
I think with such a book there was always the possibility the adaptation would veer too far into the twee. Thankfully, it does not. The fantastic cast manage to convey the humour, sweetness and quaintness of the book set in the 30s without skimping on the realness and touch of darkness. Bill Nighy and Romola Garai are simply superb. A movie (and a book) I come back to time and again.
August 13, 2013 § 2 Comments
1. Kalystia: The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for literary marketing. When it comes to books, my defences are down and I’ll buy anything that publishers tell me to. Because of this unfortunate tendency of mine, I have wasted money on absolute trash, simply because it’s been hyped up online with a powerful marketing campaign (most recently, The Fifth Wave, which I hated). On the flip-side, though, sometimes a viral campaign will grab me, and I’ll pick up a book worth every word of praise. Angelfall, relentlessly pushed by Goodreads, was one such novel. The Bone Season has been doing the rounds in online campaigning, and the series is touted to rival The Hunger Games, Twilight and even Harry Potter.
So, naturally, I want it.
The Bone Season is about clairvoyants practising outside the law. In a contract mirroring that of J. K. Rowling, young author Samantha Shannon has been signed for a seven book deal with Bloomsbury, with the first three to come out fairly soon. And that is pretty much all I know about this book. It’s on its way to me from England now, so more to come soon!
If you’re as intrigued as I am, watch the surprisingly well-done book trailer here!
2. Itsnotnatalie: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Oddly, for a committed Whovian, to the best of my knowledge, I have never, EVER, read a sci-fi book. So for me, Ender’s Game represents the opportunity to dip my toe into the endless sea of this new (to me, at least) genre. I am really excited by the two-fold challenge Ender’s Game presents; first, having to step outside my reading comfort zone and second, I am looking forward to facing the questions that the sci-fi genre will invariably pose for me.
Side note from Kalystia: I love Ender’s Game, and have high hopes for the upcoming film adaptation! I think Asa will do an excellent job of portraying Ender.
3. Kalystia: The Returned – Jason Mott
The Returned opens with the premise that those who have definitely, permanently died have one day simply returned to their families. The Returned show up on their loved ones’ doorsteps, the same age that they were when they died. When I first read about this, I did not hesitate to pre-order. I’ve tried to stop myself from reading anything about it…but I ended up having a few sneaky peeks at some reviews. The Returned is being praised for its moving story, its haunting subject matter and its stark language. This tends to put me in mind of The Road, but I believe The Returned has a more familiar setting than that.
And that’s about all I know about The Returned. It already has me hooked, and I haven’t read a word of it.
4. Itsnotnatalie: The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell
After the intellectual workout I’m expecting Ender’s to put me through, I think I’ll need a change of pace! I stumbled across The Other Typist in our favourite bookstore, and ever since I have been itching to read it. Somehow or another, though, other books just keep getting in the way. So this is it, no ifs or buts, it is being read! I have also heard that Keira Knightley has signed on for a film adaptation, my interest is even more piqued.
5. The Novelettes want to read The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
Itsnotnatalie: I don’t actually know too much about this book. My main attraction to it has been off the back of the movie stills I saw; the casting of Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson (two of my favourite actors) had me bouncing in my chair! Plus, there is the added bonus that The Book Thief is set during World War 2 – and as anyone who knows me can attest, I cannot resist any movie, TV show, book, ANYTHING set in this time. I am particularly excited about the special plan Kalystia and I have planned for this book, so watch this space!
Kalystia: I’ve always felt a bit bad for not having read The Book Thief. I often see this book picked as one of the best books written in recent times, and I know I should have read it long before now. There’s a lot about it that means I will very likely fall in love with it – a snowy, war-time setting, a highly interesting narrator (Death) and a girl who adores reading. It’s a recipe for a book bound for my favourites shelf. With a film adaptation set to hit the screens later this year, I think it’s time I read The Book Thief.
Itsnotnatalie has also had this book on her to-read list for quite some time. So, we’ve decided to do something a little bit special to celebrate the fact that we’ve finally decided to read this book. Stay tuned to see what have in store.
August 10, 2013 § 14 Comments
If you haven’t heard of The Fault in Our Stars (shortened to TFIOS by fans), you really must be living under a rock. John Green has blown away adult and teen readers alike with the equally heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a support group for young cancer-sufferers. TFIOS, like Green’s other novels, is an empowering depiction of teenagers, with intelligent, often hilarious and realistically flawed characters who make adult decisions in the in-between world that is adolescence. Itsnotnatalie and I can’t really speak about TFIOS without at least having a tissue box on hand, but there’s one thing we know for certain – this movie could be bad. We’re dreading the rise of “Team Augustus” supporters that are likely to emerge once TFIOS comes to the silver screen, but most importantly, we want this very special book to be represented well on film.
Although I often recommend Divergent to those who enjoyed The Hunger Games, they are two very different series. In The Hunger Games, Katniss unknowingly incites an active revolution that has been gestating for quite some time. Meanwhile, in Divergent, things are trucking along pretty well until Tris comes along. It’s a small distinction, but Divergent is more about the slow unravelling of a dystopian society than it is about a persistent revolution gaining traction. Because Divergent and The Hunger Games are so often compared, I hope that the film-makers make an effort to establish Divergent’s identity apart from The Hunger Games. Side note: the girl who has been cast as Tris, Shailene Woodley, has also been cast as Hazel in TFIOS. She must have something going for her!
3. Ender’s Game
Ender’s Game is often ranked as one of the best sci-fi books of all time, so it’s odd that it has never been made into a movie before now. I actually hated it the first time I read it, but persisted through a second time. The second time round, I recognised the true depth and power of the story of Ender Wiggin and his peers. Ender is a complex character, but I think they’ve chosen well in casting Asa Butterfield. Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford have been cast in the adult roles, with Abigail Breslin and Hailee Stienfeld in supporting ones. My hope is that with such an accomplished cast, the film will live up to the reputation of the book. The trailer certainly seems to indicate that it will! The enemy’s gate is down…
I’ve mentioned before on The Novelettes that Carrie is one of the books that changed me as a reader and as a person. When I saw that it was being remade, I was really excited. That is, until I saw that Chloe Grace Moretz had been cast as Carrie. In the novel, Carrie is unattractive, often described as bovine, and has enormous difficulty connecting or fitting in with her peers. I find it hard to believe that a girl who looks like Chloe could ever endure the same difficulty that Carrie did. That said, Chloe Grace Moretz is well on the way to establishing herself as a truly talented actress, so I’ll suspend my judgement until I see the film.
Although it was met with mixed critical responses, The Hunger Games lived up to my every expectation. I saw it three times in the cinemas and have watched it countless times since. Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss, and I have faith that she will carry her aptitude for the role for the rest of the Hunger Games journey. That said, Mockingjay has been split into two films, parts one and two. My hope is that it’s not being drawn out simply for extra revenue (I’m looking at YOU, Peter Jackson), and that it’s being divided into two parts to do the final book justice. In Mockingjay, we see Katniss (not to mention Peeta!) suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, and the culmination of the revolution in the districts. Please, filmmakers, don’t screw this up! On the plus side, how great does the Catching Fire trailer look?