30 October 2015

Hallowe'en is coming...


I'm quite the wimp when it comes to all things terror but when All Hallow's Eve rolls around I try to stop peeking through my fingers and embrace the spirit(s) of the season.
Here's a few spooky suggestions for this Hallowe'en.

Lore Podcast: Podcasts are a recent discovery of mine, helping me get through many a long day at work, and Lore has quickly become one of my favourites. Host Aaron Mahnke explores the truth behind superstitions, folklore and terrifying legends that make up our history and culture. Extremely well curated, meticulously researched and full of atmosphere, Lore is informative, entertaining and occasionally chilling. It's the perfect soundtrack for carving pumpkins.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman: Turing the classic horror standard of 'there's something inside the house' on its head is Josh Malerman's debut novel. This time, something is outside, it's everywhere, and those who see it are almost instantaneously driven to enact fatal (and often gruesome) harm on themselves. We experience this terror through the eyes of Malorie, who finds herself pregnant just as the horror begins to unfold. Genuinely creepy and unnerving, I had to stop reading more than once and allow myself to calm down. If you're looking for a great horror novel then I'd recommend Bird Box- just make sure you're not near a window...

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson: Not as overtly scary as Bird Box, Jackson's sinister Gothic novella is perfect for dark and stormy nights. I've done a full review of this before; it's a great quick read with a dark undercurrent and a wonderfully unreliable narrator.

Funny Games: I'm not generally a fan of horror films, mainly because I'm a wimp with an overactive imagination, but I also think they're too gratuitously violent and gory rather than genuinely scary. Funny Games is different. There's not much violence and the majority takes place off-screen. Instead, the torment is more controlled, which in turn makes it more terrifying. Two polite young men call at a family's summer home and ask for some eggs. From this seemingly innocuous beginning comes a horrifying evening of torment as the victims fight to survive until morning. Innovative and original, Funny Games is a great unnerving film to watch- just make sure you only open the door to trick-or-treaters.

What are your favourite Hallowe'en horrors?

17 October 2015

Best Endeavour Book Club: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Ahead of Station Eleven's release there was a lot of buzz that piqued my interest in reading it, but when it came out I just didn't pick it up. Thank goodness I rectified that this month because it's brilliant. Truly thrilling, unexpected and moving, I loved it.

In a seemingly present-day Canada, an actor dies on stage during a performance of King Lear. Almost simultaneously, the (thankfully fictional) Georgia Flu touches down and wipes out the majority of the world's population in mere days.
Moving forward twenty years, we meet those whose lives were unravelled by the virus. Chief among them is Kirsten, a member of the Travelling Symphony; a band of actors and musicians who perform Shakespearean plays in the settlements which have sprung up following the collapse.

Through flashbacks Mandel recounts the way the world fell apart. I thought the way this was done was simply wonderful. It's not heavy handed or overwrought in the slightest; in contrast, the end of everything is so quiet and understated that it's like it just slipped away.
The writing throughout is beautiful and elegant, not revealing everything but giving enough flashes of the world before and after to allow you to be truly invested in this new world and the survivors that inhabit it. Indeed, such is the beauty of Mandel's writing that a brief passage describing a newsreader addressing his wife on air during the uncertainty of everything moved me to tears.

The way the multiple strands of the story and the various characters merge together throughout the course of the novel, and the reveal of the title's meaning, are fantastic. The world Mandel has built is so vibrant that I spent a large part of the novel feeling so sad that our world could easily end like this and there would be no way to say goodbye to my loved ones if I wasn't already with them.
I really like speculative fiction at the moment and loved the real plausibility of this scenario.

My only complaint about Station Eleven is that it finished long before I was ready and that little cliffhanger at the end, again just a glimmer of what might be, left me wanting more. I know I have to the rest of Mandel's catalogue to read and I'm looking forward to that, but I wish I could have travelled with the Symphony for a little longer.

Have you read Station Eleven or any of Mandel's other novels? You can get Station Eleven via my affiliate link on Book Depository or support your local bookshop by buying it through my new obsession, Hive (not an affiliate link!)