What I’m Reading Now
6 September 2017
As with most of my books lately (see below), I happened to find House of Echoes while looking for an ebook to download in the middle of the night. I’m not sure what I thought it was, exactly, but it’s interesting because it comes across as a haunted house story (hence the name), but it’s not. Not really. It’s more of a haunted forest story. But the thing that has made this book stand out for me as a horror story is not the dread creature living in the woods, but the horror lurking inside the characters and their relationships. Ben wants to be in love with his wife Caroline but after a severe bout of postpartum depression, he’s starting to wonder if he still is: “Ben knew that this was the moment to reach across to her, but he was so tired of the endless tiptoeing and glad-handing that had become necessary to their daily life.” He’s starting to give up on their marriage. He’s a man trapped by his desire for the perfect life and family that when his family starts to fracture, he turns his back on it. Take this excerpt: “Ben studied his son. He still looked like a little kid. A pale and sick-looking kid. But Ben saw someone older in those gray-blue eyes. In their reflection he could imagine dead animals in the woods and the fire in the shed…They made him think of secrets that no child should be keeping to himself. When he looked at Charlie, he felt more things than he could sort. “Do whatever you want to do,” Ben said. He maneuvered past him. When he turned in to Bub’s room, he could still feel Charlie’s gaze on his back.” Ben is giving up on the most important people in his life, which, to me, is a whole different level of horror.
I usually finish a book in the middle of the night, which means (if I’m not ready to sleep) I’m too lazy to get out of bed and find another. So I pop on our library’s handy little digital selection and find something available that sounds interesting. A lot of these books I end up not finishing but there have been a couple that I’ve really enjoyed. Arrowood is among these select few. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It’s labeled as a thriller, which I guess it is but not in the Lee Child/James Patterson sense. It’s about a 20-something woman named Arden who’s moved back to her childhood home in the south–the home from which her family moved after Arden’s twin sisters disappeared when she was eight. In fact, I would put it more in the mystery category because while Arden tries to recapture the nostalgia of her youth before her sisters’ disappearance, she’s also trying to figure out what happened to them. I’ve never read Laura McHugh but I’m going to have to read more. Arden’s first person perspective is unlike anything I’ve read before. Her voice…gosh…I don’t even know how to articulate it. It’s simultaneously characterizing without ever pausing to give us long descriptions or asides. There’s a pervading theme of water and wetness and naivety and history and nostalgia. In fact, Arden’s voice is so alluring, I think, because I get the feeling that there’s something she’s missing–that she’s either too naïve to see it, or she’s not telling us something. It’ll be interesting to see how it ends, to know if she’s an unreliable narrator, and if she is, it might be worth reading again to pick up on how deftly McHugh drops clues. It also touches upon what happens when a small town begins to fade and the impact that has on its residents, especially in their desperation to save it. It’s about Arden trying to come to terms with her past even as she wallows in it.
4 June 2017
I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, mostly in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine (which I get on my Kindle) but I’ve also been buying the Best Horror of the Year (ed: Datlow) anthologies when they’re on sale for Kindle. The first one I read, Volume 8, was fantastic! Every single story in there sent chills down my spine or filled my guts with dread. One in particular I can’t get out of my head and have since read twice. It’s called “In a Cavern, In a Canyon” by Laird Barron, who I had never heard of before now but I’ve since decided he’s one of my favorite horror writers ;P
Volume Seven of the Best Horror of the Year wasn’t as good. In fact, I was a little disappointed. The stories were well-written but they didn’t elicit the dread and spine-tingling-ness that the first one did. Laird Barron’s “the worms crawl in” was the best (no surprise) but not as creepy as “In a Cavern.”
I bought a couple books at MisCon this year that I’m looking forward to reading, including Meradeth Houston’s YA book An Absence of Light. And Patrick Swenson’s The Ultra Big Sleep, a sequel to The Ultra Thin Man. I’ll try to remember to post on here about them here…