Tag Archives: horror

“The Toynbee Convector” by Ray Bradbury

I wasn’t very impressed by this collection of short stories by Bradbury.  I wonder if works by a famous author generally decline in quality once they achieve a certain level of notoriety … they know whatever they churn out will sell well, so don’t make much of an effort like they used to.  Not sure if that is the case in this particular instance; maybe I just don’t like Bradbury (I remember reading and enjoying “Farenheit 451” back in high school; but then again I once tried “The Martain Chronicles” and hated it….)

The majority of these (truly short – less than ~10 pages each) stories have a a twist — sometimes clever, most of the time not really.  Several times just “huh?”

The stories I liked best were a few “what’s up there lurking in the attic” type horror stories.  The title story was also decent, but kind of predictable.  A guy created a time machine and traveled several decades into the future.  His widely reported stories of gleaming cities, peaceful nations, and general prosperity inspired a generation.  Years later, the world resembles very much the world the time traveler prophesied.  The world awaits the arrival of the time traveler from the past, but the time and date come and go with nothing.  Turns out he had faked the whole thing — his whole goal was to inspire the world with his vision of what it might become.

Clever … although I don’t think the scientific community would blindly accept the word of a single “time traveler” and never test out his claims….

 

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

There was nuclear war and everything burned.  Except not quite everything – some people and buildings survived.  Close enough though.  Thick layers of ash cover everything on the planet; presumably all plants and therefore animals perished.  The survivors that are left resort to scrounging around for hidden caches of canned food (either left over from before the disaster or stockpiled by another survivor) or cannibalism.  Kind of depressing, no?  It’s a dog-eat-dog world, literally.  Well, people-eat-people.  When the means of production are completely wiped out, what else is left?  Quite a horrible, hopeless way to live.

After several years and for unexplained reasons, a man and his son set out on a journey following one of the old roads – probably a highway.  Pretty much everyone they encounter is a thief, cannibal, or other scumbag who wants to steal their stuff and eat them.  (I guess all the good people have been eaten already!)  Somehow in spite of the utter hopelessness around him, the boy has an optimistic spirit — he always wants to help people, even though nobody has ever helped them.  (But his father has certainly helped the boy; maybe that’s where he gets it from.)  The father struggles with the boy’s desire to give away supplies or otherwise endanger their security by helping others.  What’s the greater good, helping others or protecting family?  Hard to say, but I think most parents would side with the father in this story.

Luckily there’s a happy ending.  The father dies, but the boy ends up with the first other good folk we meet in the book.

“The Call of Cthulhu” by Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Quite a famous short story.  (Not a book perse … but, hey, gotta pad my 2011 “books read” numbers before the end of the year!  🙂  Also this is the first book I read entirely on my fancy new Android phone via Aldiko reader … nice to be able to read a few minutes in the grocery store line, another few waiting for the baby to fall asleep, etc.  But I digress.)

The first person narrator discovers a letter from his recently late (suspiciously so) uncle detailing the investigation into a strange, secret, ancient cult that seems to exist in similar form across many cultures, from Greenland to cajun Louisiana.  Furthermore, several creatively-attuned individuals simultaneously experience, for a few days, a bout of strange dreams and visions of ruins with impossible, odd-angled architecture and a huge, horrible, tentacled, mind-bending monstrosity.  The narrator continues his uncle’s studies and tracks down what happened during those days – deep in the South Pacific, a luckless steam ship crew are accidentally witness to the culmination of the cult’s existence – the reawakening of Cthulhu, one of the ancient gods of the world.  Whether the Earth’s sanity may be preserved is undecided at story’s end, but seems to be intact for the time being.  Cthulhu can afford to take his (its?) time…

I liked Lovecraft’s consistently creepy writing style – somehow there is a sense of foreboding and impending doom wrapped up in each sentence.  Some choice quotes:

“I will tell its gist enough to show
why the sound the water against the vessel’s sides became so
unendurable to me that I stopped my ears with cotton.”

“There was a bursting as of an
exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a
stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the
chronicler could not put on paper.”

“I have looked upon all that the universe has to
hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of
summer must ever afterward be poison to me.”

“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher

Like an old detective novel, but the detective is a wizard, Harry Dresden.  He’s set up shop in Chicago – “Lost items found.  Paranormal investigations.  Consulting.  Advice.  Reasonable Rates.  No love potions, endless purses, or other entertainment.”  Harry investigates some murders and a missing person case, which turn out (of course!) to be connected.

Pretty good read; but kind of delves into the gruesome horror type genre that I’m not too big a fan of.