Dark Tales to Die For

Thursday, October 20, 2011

| | |
Hello, my lovelies.  I promised you a Halloween post, didn't I?  Well now... wherever shall I start?

First of all, my dear dear sissa, Sarah Franz-Wichlacz of wich-crafting, is blogging the making of her Halloween costume this year.  It's more fun than a magical bag of murder.  ;)  Hop on over to see what she's crafting.  

Now, in my last post I hinted that I'm all giddy about something, and I can't wait any longer.  I must reveal all.  In November, the man, the myth, the legend, and my all time favorite author, is coming to a town near-ish me.  And I have tickets to go see him.  Stephen King is doing a very limited tour to promote his new book, 11/22/63.  (Yes, that's the book's title.)  I, friends and fellow fiction freaks, will be sitting in the same room with one of the most influential, prolific, and genre-game-changing authors alive today.  And do you notice how calm I am?  Ah, the facade of a blog.  (If you knew me in "real life," you'd know I've been taken by fits of squeals lately, and have been blurting out, "I'm going to see Stephen King," at random and inappropriate times.) 

But, what's the most pressing matter right now?  All Hallows Read, of course!  Now's the time to spread scary books far and wide.  If you don't know what this is (because you've been clearly living under a rock, or you watch too much TV and don't read near enough books), see my post from last October.  There you'll find a full explanation and my previous book recommendations.  (You can also click the All Hallows Read link up there, and Mr. Neil Gaiman will tell you all about it... which, admittedly, might be more fun and most certainly more thorough.)

Now, if you look to your right, and down a bit, you'll see a lovely Dracula poster created by the Introverted Wife for just this occasion.  If you click the image, it will take you to her post containing all the All Hallows Read posters she's created, which she encourages using and spreading far and wide.  That talented, talented girl.  (While you're there, I would also highly recommend checking out her Doctor Who paintings.  They are superb.)

But, now you're up to speed, what oh what might you give to fulfill your horror-gifting duties?  Let me suggest some of the things I've been reading lately, along with a few old favorites.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

There's a story behind how and why I got this book signed by the author, but I think I'll tell it in another post.  What you need to know about this book for All Hallows Read, however, is that this is a scary story for the serious reader.  Do you (or does your recipient) like sweeping, epic tales where your characters are constantly in danger and it's the End of the World as We Know It?  This is your book.  Here there be monsters, but if you don't already know, I'm not going to tell you what kind.  To tell you that would be to throw this story into a sub-genre that may make you think this is one kind of a story, when really it's something else.  These are unconventional monsters, you see.  Unstoppable monsters.  But there is one who can save us.  At least, we hope.   

This dark tale is set in a place simply called the City, where you follow the footsteps of Capac Raimi, a young man who hopes to overthrow the biggest mob boss in the entire City.  He's ambitious and driven and smarter than your average thug.  Part mystery, part mafia tale, and part psychotic nightmare, this book will keep you guessing until the heart-stopping end. 

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I have been wanting to talk about this book for MONTHS!  And finally, here we are.  Now, technically, I believe this book is considered a "fantasy," because it has, well, magicians (of the wizarding type, not to be confused with sleight of hand stage magicians, though there's a touch of that as well), and magical worlds, and generally revolves around magic.  Indeed, it tips its hat towards The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry PotterHowever, this is not, I repeat, NOT a children's tale.  This is a deep, dark rabbit hole that will drag you through hell and back again.  If Harry Potter were Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye, people.  Keep up!) and hit his magical awakening at the nearly-grown age of 17, this might be his tale.  Filled to the brim with the poignant and the profane, there are moments in this "fantasy" novel which scared me as much or more than anything I've ever read.  Pick up this book and dive in.  I promise, you won't be disappointed.

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King 

Ah, the master at work.  You know we couldn't take a trip down this dark, questionable street without stopping off at his majesty's house.  And here we have one of his earlier tales, published in the late 80s, of strange things uncovered in the woods and a town experiencing it's own private renaissance.  Until, that is, things start to go wrong.  As it is with all of King's novels, this is a horror story but it is also something more, something strange and beautiful, something that touches the very essence of the human soul.  You will be moved.  And you will be horrified.  What more could you ask from the world's premier horror writer?

And then, of course, we have short fiction.  Never underestimate the gripping power of a story you can finish in the span of an hour or two.  The following are a couple of my favorite collections of dark tales.

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

Another earlier publication of Sai King's, this contains a few of my most dearly beloved short stories.  The Mist, which was turned into a movie not four years ago and which tells the story of a man and his son stuck in a grocery store with the rest of the store's shoppers and staff, as a sinister mist engulfs the world outside where strange, almost unimaginable creatures lurk.  Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, which will weird you out a little and make you smile a lot, which is kind of a tall order for something dubbed "horror."  Inside these pages, you'll also find a man, stranded on an island and driven to the most horrific end.  A sing-along of sorts that will make you wonder if you're losing your mind.  And then, there's Nona, who asks just one question.  Do you love?

999: Twenty-nine Original Tales of Horror and Suspense

Another collection of short stories, but this one by various authors, some big names (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oats) and some I'd not heard of before.  Many in here are short enough to read in their entirety during a short plane flight, and some take a bit longer.  I'm still digesting the tales in this collection (as I rarely read a short story collection straight through - it's something I take with me on short trips or in between novels), but what I have read so far are excellent.  My favorite, surprisingly, was a tricksy little tale called The Owl and The Pussycat, because it unfolds so brilliantly.  If you're looking for some bite-sized scary stories, this may be just the thing.

As always, if you read any of the aforementioned tomes and want to talk about it, please leave me a comment.  If there's anything I love to talk about, it's a good story.


Sarah Franz-Wichlacz said...

i'm super excited for you :D when explaining your awe at seeing sai king to john, i told him it was like if he knew he were going to see glen keane speak and possibly get to meet him (enough to sign something anyway ;) then he got it!
thanks for the plug ;) BTW, love that pic you found for the beginning.

firespark said...

I loved that image, too. Couldn't pass it up. :) And you know, I had to google Glen Keane to figure out who you were talking about! Lol. But yeah... my bucket list might just be complete after this. ;)

nosuchsafety said...

I like Darren Shan.
Anywho, I also like to reply to comments and everytime I try to on my page, it logs me out and doesn't show up. So here I am...I LOVED THE SONG you left me to see on youtube. I'm currently trying to put it on my iPod. And even if I don't respond, just know I kinda think you're the bomb. thankyouthankyouthankyou.

firespark said...

Oh that is no bueno. You need to figure out that logging you out crap stat!

Yeah, Amanda Palmer is a freaking phenomenon. Seriously. I just looked over at her page (because I know she's big on offering free downloads or downloads for whatever donation you can manage), and you can't do the free download thing on "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" (the album w/ Runs in the Family), BUT I just saw she does have "Who Killed Amanda Palmer [Alternate Tracks]" for a name-your-price download... so, like, you could pay a dollar for the whole album. Not sure if you've got an account you can do that with, but an alternate version of "Runs in the Family" is in fact on it. (I'm also quite fond of the track, "Leeds United," which you should youtube 'cause the video is too much fun.) Of course, now I'M gonna' have to get this alternate version...


Also, it's worth it to read her blog (just go to the main page, amandapalmer.net, you'll see it)... this chick is the real thing.

Oh crap, I just found this!


Neat! Anyway, happy listening, hope you love her as much as I do, AND you are veryveryvery welcome. :) :) :)

All Things Stephen King said...

I loved what you said about Stephen, meeting him is quite a thrilling experience (I know it was for me). He is such an interesting speaker, so funny and so enjoyable to listen to. Anytime he is within a 300 mile radius I try to attend. I even traveled from MD to New Hampshire (in the winter) for his FDNS signing. Thanks for stopping by my blog and letting me know about yours. :D

firespark said...

Alas, All Things SK, I didn't get to actually *meet* the man. I was just in the same room with him. So... ok, maybe my bucket list ISN'T complete yet. ;)

But yeah, he's fantastic. That author got me through more dark places in life than you can imagine. Glad to see someone's doing the good work to keep his constant readers informed on Blogger! And welcome, All Things SK. Very glad to have you.