Virtual Book Club – ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’ on August 12th

The Virtual Book Club is meeting next Wednesday, August 12th, at 2pm central to discuss The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. We are using GoTo Meeting which will allow patrons to video chat with others about the book. Information about how to join is below!

Curious what the book is about? Check out the following description from the publisher.

The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense. Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road. One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.” Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

This book is also available in the following format:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Aug 12, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/969823581

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3122

Access Code: 969-823-581

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/969823581

Devolution by Max Brooks

You might not think that horror would be a good genre to turn to during These Troubled Times ™, but it’s  been one of my favorites since the 9th grade (shout out to Mr. Healy for introducing me to Stephen King!) In fact, back in March, I re-read World War Z  by Max Brooks, just for fun (I‘m weird, I know.)

I was very excited to read Brooks’ latest novel Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Much like World War Z, Devolution is told as a collection of first-person recollections, book excerpts, interviews, and journal entries. It is these journal entries, written by Kate Holland and discovered at the massacre site by her brother Frank that make up the bulk of the novel.

Kate and her husband, Dan, have joined a small “eco-community” in Washington state hoping to save their marriage. Built deep in the woods, Greenloop appears to be an idyllic escape from Silicon Valley, while still maintaining a connection to civilization through 24/7 internet connections and weekly drone deliveries.

That is until Mt. Rainier erupts.

Greenloop suddenly finds itself cut off from all communication and without enough supplies to survive for very long. The other members of the Greenloop community react to this crisis in varying and maddeningly frustrating ways. When nature –  with which some of the residents so desperately want to connect to – begins to turn on them, most remain in denial.

At least, until people begin to disappear and a troop of carnivorous Sasquatch is quite literally pounding down their doors. This assuredly is not a book for the squeamish, though it will teach you how to make an effective spear out of bamboo and kitchen knives.

With Brooks acting as narrator, he pulls testimonies and consultations together to present a story that feels incredibly plausible. And that is the mark of a great horror story – it makes you pause and examine that rustle in the bushes just a little more closely.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

guest post by Wesley B

I feel sorry for my co-workers that had to catalogue Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth. How do you categorize a book that does all it can to resist labels and push boundaries? On the bright side, that means Gideon has something for nearly everyone: space travel for science fiction fans, magic for fantasy fanatics, skeletons and other undead abominations for horror enthusiasts, romance for – well, romance readers. The characters are primarily young adults, but the content and themes transcend the YA label. The cover and content are pulpy, but the prose is literary. There’s plenty of humor, but Muir treats her characters and their problems with the gravity they deserve. After all, the stakes are higher than life and death – they’re life and undeath.

The story is told from the perspective of the eponymous heroine, Gideon Nav, an indentured servant in the Ninth House. It’s Gideon you see on the striking cover, clad in all black, her face covered with skull paint and aviator shades, walking away, sword drawn, from an explosion of skeletons. Her fiery red coif gives the cover a splash of color; similarly, her incandescent personality lends levity to the novel’s gothic, often grotesque proceedings. The book’s opening line, the most memorable I’ve read this year, is a masterclass in narrative table-setting: “In the myriadic year of our lord — the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death! — Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.” This simple declarative sentence immediately introduced me to Gideon and her world, and had me dying to learn more about them. Even when I was finished reading, that desire stayed with me; unlike many of her fellow authors of genre fiction, Muir never gets bogged down in the expository weeds of worldbuilding, instead letting her colorful characters stay in the driver’s seat as the plot moves propulsively from one scene to the next.

Gideon is a sort of inverted Harry Potter figure, leaving behind a hostile home for a new life in a place filled with wonder, danger, and people who know far more about it than she does. Unlike the boy wizard, however, Gideon isn’t so much called to adventure as dragged on it against her will, when her lifelong frenemy Harrowhark, daughter of the Ninth House’s leaders, foils her escape attempt. In doing so, however, she strikes a bargain with Gideon: if she accompanies Harrow to the First House and serves as her cavalier (essentially a bodyguard/personal assistant), where the aforementioned King Undying (a God-Emperor who should feel familiar to Warhammer 40k fans) is holding tryouts for new Lyctors (basically immortal lieutenants with vast necromantic powers).

Upon arriving at the First House, Harrow and Gideon meet their counterparts from the other seven Houses. My main criticism of Gideon is that it’s difficult to keep track of a dozen-plus characters dumped in your lap all at once, especially when only a few of them are as interesting or well-developed as our heroines. Thankfully, in its second act the book turns into an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, culling the cast significantly (plus there’s a handy list of dramatis personae at the front of the book). It’s during this section that Muir fleshes out her world’s magic system, one of my absolute favorite parts of the book. You’d think a book based entirely on necromancy wouldn’t be that varied in the magic department, but you’d be wrong – each House has its own special variety of death magic, from summoning skeletons to siphoning souls. What’s truly impressive, though, is that these differences in magic aren’t merely superficial. Instead, each necromancer’s style of magic reflects their personality.

In the third act, Muir gives readers the climactic action scenes and revelations of mysteries that we expect, and executes both with aplomb. Ultimately, however, what kept me reading was Gideon and Harrow. As they struggle to work together, they learn not just about the secrets of the First House, but about themselves as well. The ending is explosive and intimate, hilarious and heartbreaking, a tearjerker and a cliffhanger all in one. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year; in the meantime, I might have to re-read this one.

Putting in a Good Word for the Werewolf – Halloween

Werewolves, the fluffiest of the Halloween creatures. They have haunted the streets of London and became enthralled in love triangles in the Pacific Northwest. They often serve as allegory for humanities most animalistic tendencies. This collection of werewolf novels is meant to horrify and inspire self reflection. Are we really that different from the monsters we create in our fiction?

Cabal by Clive Barker

This Novella follows Boone, a man who believes he is a serial killer, but has no recollection of killing anyone. As he becomes convinced that he is indeed a murderer after visits with his psychiatrist, he begins looking for the mythical city of Midian a place that offers protection for monsters called the Night Breed. This horrifying tale has many twists and turns that keep the reader on their toes and his a wholly unique experience to read.

Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

At the core of it, Hemlock Grove is a mystery. When girls are showing up dead and the two protagonists Roman and Peter are singled out as the most likely suspects, it is up to them to get to the bottom of the case and nab the real killer. the catch, Peter is a werewolf. This story is one that is full of interesting revelations that keep the reader on the edge of their seat for the whole ride so I won’t spoil any more than just stating the premise.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

5% of the population are werewolves. They are drugged so as to keep them from transforming into their wolf forms and it has been made illegal for werewolves to use their powers. Red Moon is all about asking a question that is a common werewolf trope “who is the real monster?”. Dealing with themes such as terrorism, domestic surveillance, prejudice and many more. This werewolf epic is well-worth the read.

These titles and many more horrifying tales are all available at your Davenport Public Library. For more recommendations like these to get you into the Halloween spirit, check out our Halloween LibGuide for more wretched recommendations. And always remember to beware the full moon.

 

Villainous Video Games – Halloween

While many think about telling spooky campfire tales with friends and loved ones around the Halloween season, another fun way to share in the frights is to turn off all of the lights, bundle up in your warmest blanket and snuggle in with a terrifying video game to scare your socks off. I have compiled some truly terrifying offerings of games that are sure to do just that.

Outlast Trinity

This game is actually a collection of three experiences all packaged into one case. Unlike some horror games that let you take on the bad guys and supernatural creatures, Outlast only gives the player a camcorder with night vision capabilities as their tool. No weapons or tools to fight off the bad guys, only hiding or running are your options. This helplessness drives up the intensity and horror in this atmospheric instant classic.

Until Dawn

This story-driven game follows a group of teenagers trapped at a ski resort in the mountain being hunted by a serial killer, and potentially other, more deadly supernatural forces. This game puts the player in charge, allowing you to make choices that dictate who lives and who dies. Try to survive the night in this narrative-focused thriller.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2

Halloween isn’t all about scaring your boots off, sometimes it is about strategizing the layout of your garden to fend off hordes of cartoon zombies. This tower defense game is great fun for all ages and is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit for those of all ages. It has a silly cartoon aesthetic to go with the generally silly atmosphere of the game. A ton of fun to be had in this game where you plant fire-breathing dandelions to fend off hat-wearing zombies.

These titles and many more horrifying tales are all available at your Davenport Public Library. For more recommendations like these to get you into the Halloween spirit, check out our Halloween LibGuide for more wretched recommendations.

 

 

 

 

Vouching For Vampires – Halloween

It’s getting closer to the best time of the year. Leaves are about to change colors, the winds at night are going to become crisp and cool and abandoned department stores are about to become filled with all manner of spooky costumes and decorations. Halloween is upon us! And I have tasked myself with theming some blog posts around getting into the holiday spirit. This post is going to focus on making some recommendations for those looking for stories about everyone’s favorite bloodsucking bat-people. Vampires!

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This is a macabre novel that delves into the depths of Vampire lore to the original figure that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. Vlad the Impaler. This twisting and turning narrative follows the narrator as she peels back the layers to a case of a missing professor and how that ties in to hundreds of years of letters and their sinister vampiric history.

Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist

This creepy atmospheric tale takes place in 1980s Sweden where one bullied boy finds that he might have finally made a friend. A friend that just moved in next door, A friend that he only gets to see at night, a friend that only started showing up after a body was found drained of blood.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

This is a unique vampire tale that involves psychic bridges, child kidnappers, and a really scary car. Follow Vic McQueen as she goes through life learning about her mysterious powers and battles against an evil child abductor that is even more ominous than meets the eye in this intense thriller.

These titles and many more horrifying tales are all available at your Davenport Public Library. For more recommendations like these to get you into the Halloween spirit, check out our Halloween LibGuide for more wretched recommendations.

 

 

Wytches by Scott Snyder

The first thing that drew me to Wytches by Scott Snyder was the cover, it did such a great job of grabbing my attention while also letting me know what the tone of the novel was going to be before I even opened the book. Dark, stylized art that was personal and small in scope. No world-ending apocalypse in this horror novel, just a family struggling to cope with their past and trying to accommodate to a new home. Little do they know that the woods that surround them holds an evil more sinister then they could imagine.

The horror in this novel comes from how little we see. As a fan of horror I always appreciate when a writer is able to show restraint in showing too much of the monster. Snyder does a fantastic job of only showing the wytches in little chunks throughout the story. It helps to preserve the mystery of the monster and horror is largely anchored in fear of the unknown, once the monster is explained to us, it ceases being as scary. Snyder knows this and does a fantastic job of showing the reader just enough of the wytches so that the reader knows to fear them.

Jock’s art is stylized, chaotic, yet also clearly defined. Some artists that draw in a similar style to Jock border on abstract art but Jock is able to draw these fantastically beautiful and dark settings and characters while grounding them as well. Jock is able to take the extremes of this chaotic art style, with bright and dark colors contrasting all across the frames with paint splatter and exaggerated figures and balance that style with a more grounded style and the two styles mesh wonderfully throughout the story and add to the tone and presentation of the work as a whole. Typically, the extreme exaggerated borderline abstract art is used when the supernatural is occurring, and this contrasts with the clearer more-traditional sections of the work where the protagonists aren’t being confronted by tree-wytches.

Overall, Wytches doesn’t go out and do anything that transcends the trappings of the horror genre, but it isn’t trying to. It is a very well-executed horror story about a family coming to terms their traumatic past, and in the process having to fight off supernatural wytches. It is a spooky story that nails it all where it counts. Atmosphere, art, writing and scares.

For other spooky scary stories, look no further than the Davenport Public Library’s Halloween Libguide! If you are looking for more graphic novels to dive into, our Comics Libguide is the one for you!

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey is a standalone dark fantasy novel that takes place in the dystopian eastern-European inspired steampunk city of Proszawa.  This novel follows the escapades of Largo, a drug-addicted bike messenger from the slums of Lower Proszawa as he tries to ascend out of the slums and into the ranks of the elite of Upper Proszawa. Kadrey is a master at worldbuilding, with every delivery and errand that Largo goes on, the reader is given clues and information about the world of Proszawa. As Largo attempts to ascend the socioeconomic ranks of his world, he begins to discover a plot that could unravel the very fabric of the city and plunge his world into another Great War.

The city of Proszawa is dark and gritty. Drugs, sex and hedonism run rampant. The city parties as robots called Mara take the jobs of the working class. The world is one that is recovering from the effects of a massive industrialized Great War. This setting seems one that is vaguely reminiscent of the German Weimar Republic after the First World War except with Stempunk Androids and genetically engineered creatures littering the streets. The plot is an engaging one but my opinion is the strength of this novel is the world that Kadrey builds. Proszawa has a lot of the trappings that we have come to expect from Urban Dark Fantasy but it is utterly unique in execution. The discovery of the world is almost just as important as the progression of the plot.

Another huge strength of this story is the romance between Largo and the actress Remy.  Remy is an actress for the Grand Dark, a theater in Lower Proszawa that serves as the home for Remy and Largo. The Grand Dark theater is also  where the mysterious antagonist of the book Una Herzog is a regular patron who plays a key role in unraveling the fabric of Proszawa and laying the groundwork for war. Kadrey’s excellent world building can be seen in the portrayal of the Grand Dark theater as well. The pacing of this novel is a slow burn, this serves another level to the character development and world building. We as the reader get to experience Largo’s world through his eyes.

This story is one that gives a very particular view of a dystopian society, starting from Largo’s street-level perspective and eventually elevating it so that we get glimpses of the entire city. Kadrey does a fantastic job of having the reader experience his world through the eyes of his protagonist and I highly recommend The Grand Dark for any reader looking for a dark fantasy world to plunge in to.  Though the pacing of this book can be slow, especially in the first third of the novel, I would argue that this pacing adds to the story, and doesn’t take away from it.

A Quiet Place on DVD

I don’t like horror movies (or books for that matter). I guess I scare too easily. And I’m pretty strict about this – they simply don’t interest me and I like sleeping without nightmare interruptions. And yet – here I am. Talking about a horror movie. That I actually watched. And, yeah, it’s a good movie. Really good.

A Quiet Place was directed and co-written by John Krasinski and stars himself and his wife Emily Blunt. The movie opens several months after whatever created this dystopian world has already happened as a young couple and their three children search an abandoned store looking for medicine and supplies. They walk home through what seems like an idyllic, autumn countryside but not all is as it seems. Everything is silent – no birds, no animals, no other people. And something horrific is lurking nearby. Because the creatures hunt by sound, you must remain absolutely silent in order to survive. Your introduction to the monsters is shocking and horrific. And terribly sad.

The movie then jumps about a year ahead and we can see the extreme care that the family has taken to be as quiet as possible. Despite the hardships and horror of their current situation, they have carved out a life of love and care – a beautiful if primitive home, lessons for the children, a stockpile of food. When the unthinkable happens and the creatures come for them, they band together to protect and save each other.

The movie is really quite beautiful with superb acting and clever directing. The dialogue, not surprisingly, is minimal, but the emotions and thoughts of each character is clear. It’s astonishing how quickly you come to care for each of them and how easy it is to imagine yourself in their situation and wonder how you would react. It’s also fun to pick out some plot holes (Iowa girl that I am, I kept wondering “How did they plant all that corn silently?” – there are a lot of cornfields and they’re all in perfect, noisy-tractor-made straight lines!) There are other questions that make you wonder, but it never ruins the story or the suspense.

So yeah. I watched a horror movie. No nightmares (so far) I think it helps that, at its core, this movie is about family and people and, while there is some blood and gore, it’s not really the focus of the story. The people are. Highly recommended.

Get Out: A Film Deserving of the Hype

Horror cinema is an ideal format for illuminating and discussing mass anxiety. Zombie film comes to mind as one representation of “fear-of-the-crowd”, i.e. the fear of being engulfed or overtaken. In 1976, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was shot in a shopping mall replete with lumbering zombies whose sole purpose was to consume. In the 2004 remake, the zombies returned to the shopping malls in which they spent their human lives; but they were super-charged and stronger than ever. 21st-century zombies lack personal agency, wit, and intellect like their slower-moving predecessors; but you can be sure they own and can operate their cell phones.

Get Out , a break-out film written and directed by Jordan Peele has been classified as horror, thriller, and comedy and I’d say it’s a type of zombie film. (You may remember Key & Peele–a sketch comedy television series featuring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key).  Peele’s film has been a sensation: Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 99%!   Although you won’t find prototypical, grey-faced zombies mindlessly lumbering through a mall, the main protagonist must fight for his life….and his brains. If we look at Get Out in terms of how it fits into or critiques the culture and society that produces it, what current social or cultural issues might be present? (The inimitable Nina Simone sums it up well: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”) What cultural or social issues does Get Out bring to the forefront or interrogate?

Cinema that enables viewers to experience life from the perspective of another is powerful. As a white woman, I watched Get Out  from the point-of-view of a young black male. In watching from this perspective, I stepped into the shoes of Chris, the lead character. You will certainly sympathize with Chris (played by Daniel Kaluuya), as he begins to unravel how his white girlfriend’s family (The Armitage family) and their affiliates are entangled in a twisted and evil operation. Get Out  presents an ominous view of human nature and confronts issues of overt and subtle racism.  Despite some much-needed moments of comic relief (after all, comedy is often a medium for acknowledging & coping with the absurdities and injustices of life), the tone of the film is decidedly morose.  Early on, viewers watch as a young black man is kidnapped–a foreshadowing of chilling and disturbing events to ensue. Horror cinema–unlike Rom Coms or even Drama (in my opinion) most effectively acknowledges and critiques society and culture. Horror effectively conveys and validates terror in a way that no other film genre has been able to do.

In a similar vein as Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, a supplanting operation of the creepiest kind is underway in Get Out  when Chris notices how strangely his black contemporaries are behaving. The speed of the film coupled with the unmistakable feeling  that something horrifying looms in the not-so-distant future contributes to the paralyzing anxiety experienced by Chris as he meets his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. I was not surprised to learn that Peele was heavily influenced by Stanley Kurbrick as Get Out presents several bizarre and anxiety-producing scenes in which you’re not exactly sure what’s going on, but your gut tells you to get out! Subtlety itself takes on a very important role and purpose in this film: sometimes the most terrible realities are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Subtle terror creeps in undetected (but not unfelt, necessarily) until it’s too late. Like Chris, viewers begin to feel a bit crazy as self-doubt sets in. After all, the Armitage family initially appears relatively harmless; but their ignorance is also immediately palpable.

Get Out  effectively uses cinematography, scoring, acting, and directing to produce an undeniably paranoid & distrustful atmosphere. You see and feel what Chris feels. Every detail in this film was carefully considered — even down to the opening song, Redbone, by Childish Gambino: “Well, first of all, I love the ‘Stay Woke’ [lyric] — that’s what this movie is about,” he (Peele) explains to HipHopDX Editor-in-Chief, Trent Clark. “I wanted to make sure that this movie satisfied the black horror movie audience’s need for characters to be smart and do things that intelligent and observant people would do.

This film is not just a run-of-the-mill horror flick designed to give you a thrill: it sticks with you. We don’t do a good job of collectively discussing issues racism in this country, but this film prompts another discussion. The Director stated poignantly in an interview: ” ‘Part of being black in this country, or being a minority in this country, is about feeling like we’re perceiving things that we’re told we’re not perceiving,” said Peele. “It’s a state of mind. It’s a piece of the condition of being African American, certainly, that people may not know. They may not realize the toll that it does take — even if the toll is making us doubt ourselves.'”

When  your fellow human beings experience something on a mass scale, listen to them. Listening–not denying & not being silent–is revolutionary.