It’s Easter this week. I was raised as a Catholic, so Easter doesn’t say Spring and Bunnies to me. It’s about torture and a slow painful death, the harrowing Hell and a dead man rising from his tomb and surprising those who loved him. It seems to me that the perfect book theme for Easter is horror and I’ve got three books in my TBR pile that I’ve been dying to get into.
The first is a tale of Nature’s revenge on a lost generation of Native Americans. The second is gothic horror set in a glamorous version of 1950’s Mexico. The third is a fresh take on vampires, written by an outstanding Science Fiction writer.
I’m hoping for a week of late nights listening to tales that thrill, disturb and stimulate.
‘The Only Good Indians’ by Stephen Graham Jones (2020)
‘The Only Good Indians’ has been on my list of must-read books since before it came out. There was some kind of problem that delayed the release of the audiobook in the UK but I decided to wait for it rather than opt for the ebook. I’m hoping that this is one of those books where the audiobook amps up the atmosphere.
So, what’s the attraction?
Stephen Graham Jones has a reputation for writing things that are original, deeper than you’re average genre story and very creepy.
This one is set in the woods. I live in the UK. We don’t really have any woods any more, just little remnants of forest where you can still hear cars or managed trees planted in rows that aren’t so much woods as paper-pulp in waiting. The kind of woods that exist in Canada and the US or even Norway and Sweden are quite different. You step into them and, in a very short time, it feels like they’ve swallowed you. It’s more than that sense of how big nature is and how small you are that you get when standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or looking up at the Matterhorn from Zermatt. Unlike the canyons and mountains, the woods are alive. You’re surrounded by and dwarfed by trees that are bigger and older than you. They go on forever and they’re all connected. They filter the light and muffle the sound. They ARE the environment. I love stories that recognise how much potential for fear there is in that.
I expect this effect to be magnified by Stephen Graham Jones looking at the woods from the point of view of First Nation people who have a long connection to it but where the connection has been assaulted by genocide and cultural annihilation and where the people themselves are displaced and or excluded from the broader world around them.
‘Mexican Gothic ‘ by Sivlvia Moreno.Garcia (2020)
I’m a fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing. I liked her novella, Prime Meridian and her short story Give Me Your Black Wings Oh My Sister. I was excited when I heard that she has a new novel out and when I heard the title, I knew I had to have it. Gothic horror and a glamorous version of 1950s Mexico, how could I resist that?
My wife’s already read the book and enjoyed it, so I’m fairly confident this one is going to work for me.
I’m hoping for a classic gothic tale in a novel setting, spiced up by Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ability to see things differently.
‘Fledgling’ by Octavia E. Butler (2005)
I’ve been a Science Fiction fan since before Octavia E Butler published her first novel in 1976 and yet, somehow, her work passed me by. She’s in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and she’s won the Hugo and the Nebula (twice each), so I know I’ve missed out on something.
I decided to start with ‘Fledgling’ because it was the last novel she wrote before her death in 2006. To my surprise, it turned out that it’s a vampire novel. But not just any vampire novel. This is novel told from the point of view of a vampire who, as a result of serious head injuries, has lost all memory of her life before she was attacked. As she discovers the vampire world and her place in it, what emerges is a lot different from the Bram Stoker kind of vampire.
I started this one yesterday and I’m hooked. I already know that I’ll be going back and reading all of Octavia E Butler’s books.