Kicking off my Frighteningly Good Reads for 2019 is Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, the 2013 sequel to one of the author’s most famous novels, The Shining. Dan Torrance, now a grown man, is still haunted by his experiences at the Overlook Hotel all those years ago. Some ghosts are harder to escape than others, and the violence and drinking that plagued his father has come back around on him, leaving him to aimlessly wander around the country. He eventually winds up in Frazier, New Hampshire, a small town that inexplicably triggers visions, despite the years of drinking dulling his “shine.”
Dan decides to settle in the town and gets his act together, attending AA meetings and eventually working at a hospice where he uses his psychic gifts to comfort those passing on, gaining the nickname “Doctor Sleep.” One day he is remotely contacted by Abra Stone, a young teen girl with a “shine” far more powerful than his own. She has attracted the attention of the True Knot, a tribe of psychic vampires who feed off of victims with powers like theirs, and needs his help if she is going to survive.Read More »
Coraline is a 2002 horror fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. Coraline, the titular character, and her parents have moved into a new flat in a big old house that is divided into several apartments. They share the property with some colourful characters; two aged actresses below them and an eccentric old man above them. There is a vacant flat next to theirs that is unoccupied, the passageway in their place bricked up behind a door in their parlour. Listless and left by her busy parents to try and entertain herself in the waning days of summer, Coraline can’t help feeling oddly fixated on this door, even though her mother has already shown her what’s on the other side. Reopening it on her own, she finds a long dark corridor where there ought to bricks. The passage leads her to a world that mirrors her own, full of wondrous delights and populated by another mother and father with buttons for eyes, who soon turn out to be far more malevolent than she first realizes.Read More »
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett is the 13th novel in the comic fantasy Discworld series, and the second standalone novel belonging to a small, loosely connected group of novels that cover specific, lesser-known cultures of the Disc. This novel in question is set a century before the usual present day and focuses on the land of Omnia, a powerful and oppressive theocracy that worships and acknowledges only one god: The Great God Om. The time for the 8th prophet to be revealed is close at hand and Om has manifested himself in physical form on the Disc to seek out his new chosen one. The problem is, he has somehow manifested as a diminutive tortoise and nobody he speaks to can hear him. That is, until an eagle meaning to make a meal of him drops him into the Citadel in Omnia, where he lands in a garden. There he meets Brutha, a novice of the Citadel and the only person in the whole world who can hear him.Read More »
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is Stuart Turton’s debut novel. Set in an English country manor in the early 20th century, our protagonist awakens in the forest yelling the name Anna but remembering nothing else. He is mysteriously guided back to Blackheath manor, a rundown old estate owned by the Hardcastle family, who are hosting a ball to celebrate the return of their daughter Evelyn from Paris. While struggling to remember who he is, our protagonist soon learns that his mind is inhabiting the body of someone other than himself. He will cycle throughout eight different host bodies, reliving the same day at Blackheath over and over, until he solves the mystery of Evelyn’s murder. Guided by a mysterious figure in a plague doctor outfit, he must contend with two rivals to solve this mystery. The answer is the key to their freedom that only one of them can claim.Read More »
Star Wars: Myths & Fables by George Mann is a middle grade collection of stories set in the Star Wars universe, with an illustration by Grant Griffin accompanying each story. Though the connections are not especially overt, the book was released as a part of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge media project. Unlike a typical collection, each story is a piece of in-universe folklore from across the galaxy. Some are self-contained little fables, while others work to mythologize iconic characters we know and love from the films.Read More »
The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story is a horror novel by Susan Hill. A young man named Oliver is visiting his old professor Theo Parmitter, an elderly bachelor who lives on campus at Cambridge University. One cold winter’s night during Oliver’s visit Theo tells him the strange story of a painting he has hanging in the room, depicting masked revelers at a carnival in Venice. Seemingly burdened by not having shared this tale, he tells of how he came to acquire it and the disturbing history of people becoming entrapped by its macabre beauty.Read More »
Exit West is a 2017 novel by Mohsin Hamid that blends fiction and magical realism. The story follows dual protagonists Nadia and Saeed, a young woman and man who live in an unnamed city that is gradually beset upon by militants. Though Nadia is more independent and outspoken, which goes against tradition, and Saeed is generally more conservative, the two begin a romantic relationship. As they try to survive day-to-day in their city, with the militants encroaching further and further, mysterious doors begin popping up there and around the world, linking places many miles apart. As life in the city becomes nearly unlivable the two seek out one of these doors to escape the daily violence and build a new life far away.Read More »
Phasma is a Star Wars novel by Delilah S. Dawson, published in 2017 as a part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” series of books released in anticipation for Episode VIII. Despite this banner, the story is largely separate from the plot of that film. Resistance spy Vi Moradi has been captured and taken aboard the First Order Star Destroyer Absolution. She is kept in an interrogation room in the bowels of the ship, where a crimson-armoured stormtrooper—Captain Cardinal—keeps her secret from his superiors. He wants to learn everything Vi knows of his counterpart and rival, the mysterious Captain Phasma, who threatens his place of prominence in the First Order. Vi divulges to him Phasma’s elusive origins on the world of Parnassos, long left for dead by the galaxy at large, and the strange odyssey she took to join the ranks of the First Order. By the end of her story, however, Cardinal may have learned more than he bargained for.Read More »
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham is a 1957 science fiction novel about an alien invasion of a different kind. One morning, the unremarkable village of Midwich in Britain inexplicably cannot be entered. Anybody trying to get in is suddenly knocked unconscious by unknown means. Every living thing within this radius of influence, which encompasses Midwich, is in this state. Military Intelligence, in trying to get a handle on the situation, notice through aerial photos the presence of an otherworldly, silver object at the centre of it all in the village.
A day after this begins, however, it is over. The object is gone, and most of the residents of Midwich awaken unharmed. The event becomes known as the “Dayout,” and begins to recede from memory as nothing more than a bad dream. That is, until all the women of childbearing age in Midwich discover they have somehow become pregnant, and that their ordeal is only just beginning. They eventually give birth to pale, golden-eyed children that appear to be human, but are in fact something else altogether.Read More »
I’ve found trying to succinctly describe Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman a little challenging. In some ways it’s easy because it is (a) a book of essays, (b) a work of nonfiction, and (c) concerned with popular culture. This isn’t especially helpful though, since that describes a lot of books. A number of the essays revolve around sports and music, that’s for sure. One is so deeply entrenched in football history, in fact, that he advises some readers to skip it (though this is an outlier).
In a broad way, I suppose, I’d say this book questions facets of the reality in our society and how we come to interpret this reality through very specific examples of celebrity and popular culture. Maybe that’s still too vague, but this book has essays about the concept of time travel, Road movies, why we answer interview questions, and ABBA. Connective threads are bound to look a little tenuous from the outside.Read More »