A number of years ago I decided it would be fun to have a look at some of the classic horror novels from the 1980s: to revisit Dean Koontz, Clive Barker Peter Straub, V.C. Andrews and, inevitably, Stephen King. I loved King as a teen, and I chose this particular book because It has the hallmarks of a master work while, simultaneously, being deeply problematic. My difficulties with It are the same ones every other feminist critic, pretty much, has voiced. Here’s a bit of my take on this novel.
With a huge ensemble cast and overlapping 1958/1985 storyline, It is very nearly seven full novels in one. King’s 1986 bestseller is just about 1400 pages long… and more than once I was almost sorry I hadn’t done the expedient thing and read Christine instead. The themes of the two books are similar: they’re both about adulthood and growing into an acceptance of mortality. In Christine it’s put thusly: “If being a kid is about learning how to live, then being an adult is about learning how to die.”
A number of years ago I decided it would be fun to have a look at some of the classic horror novels from the 1980s: something by Stephen King, a Dean Koontz novel, a taste of Clive Barker and, of course, a novel by Peter Straub. Ghost Story was published in 1979, and I was adhering strictly to the idea of an Eighties horror rewatch, so I went with Shadowland, which was less overtly horrific, in many ways. It was, though, the first Straub book I read.
Here’s a snippet of the essay:
Shadowland isn’t metafiction, either, but it skirts its furthest border, containing stories within stories: fairy tales that turn into guest appearances by the Brothers Grimm, creepy parables offered by the Carson School teachers to the traumatized student body, numerous references to the story of Jesus, and a long narrative Coleman Collins calls his “unburdening,” about how he discovered the magic within himand made it monstrousduring his days as a doctor in the First World War. The novel’s frame story, where Tom reveals his past to his writer classmate, thus becomes a parallel unburdening, a necessary part, perhaps, of the true magician’s life cycle.
It has been a few years since I reviewed Hild, by Nicola Griffith, for the simple reason that it’s been a few years since it came out. But as gift-giving season breathes down (some of) our collective necks, I offer this: if you do December giftage and are trying to figure out what to get a beloved fan of historical novels, someone who’s going absolutely mad waiting for Hilary Mantel’s third Cromwell novel, this is exactly the ticket. If you are that person… you’ll have a completely wonderful distraction, at least until you’re left dividing your time between pining for two sequels–the next Hild book is on my OMG, OMG, when, when? list, for sure!–instead of one.
Here’s a snip of my review:
One of the intriguing elements of Hild’s character is her refusal to accept what seem to be obvious limits. From earliest childhood, she seeks to gather strength to herself, offsetting her tactical deficits. The greatest deficit, of course, is her sex. Despite her obvious utility as an advisor, she is still female and still, therefore, a marriageable property. Her sister is married for political reasons when Hild is young, driving the point home. Losing her plunges Hild into another, very difficult, battle, against loneliness. Who is fit company for a seer? Who might she ever take as a lover or a husband?
And here’s the cover:
Early this year I reviewed a Patricia McKillip novel, Kingfisher, a contemporary other-world fantasy with kings, knights, princesses, jousting, water-priestesses… and also social media, foodie culture, and cell phones.
It had been a long while since I read a McKillip book and I thought it was time I looked in on what she’d been writing lately. Here’s a snip of what I found in this book:
Patricia McKillip’s Kingfisher is a beautifully inventive novel, one that is genuinely effective in combining a world with medieval pageantry and honor-driven knights on the quest with the age of haute-cuisine trends, celebrity chefs, and the selfie. The idea of folding modern foodie culture into this story is inspired, as is everything about Stillwater’s restaurant. So cursed! So cool! So many fantasy novels feature the lowly kitchen waif as part of their stories at one point or another. A book that is all about cooking and cooks meshes with that in witty and surprising ways.
Here’s the cover:
One of the other books I reviewed this year was the newest by Connie Willis, Crosstalk, a light screwball comedy about the dangers of too much human contact, whether it comes in the form of pushy family, social media, or telepathy.
Kelly introduced me to Connie’s writing when we were first married, so this isn’t the first time I’ve written about her work. Another Tor essay of mine tells new-to-Willis readers how to get started. And here’s a snip of the current review:
In screwball comedies, miscommunication abounds, and many of the minor characters are pathologically single-minded as they pursue a host of weird goals. Crosstalk fits this mold. For example, Briddey’s sister is obsessed with what her daughter might be seeing on the internet… and she doesn’t much care whether it is zombie movies, Disney princesses, or actual terrorists. It’s a normal enough concern, perhaps, something any parent might relate to… until you consider the spy software she has installed on her daughter’s computer, or the fact that she absolutely expects Briddey to happily interrogate her own niece.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d lie and avoid these people, too.
Here’s the cover: