October Books List

Tuesday 30 October 2012

In honor of the month of Halloween, most of the books that I've read in October have a horror or dark theme to them.  If you've yet to pick a Halloween read, then perhaps one of these will interest you?  Here's what I've read this month:-

(1) House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielweski
House Of Leaves is a big book in terms of length and concept.  It's pure experimental fiction so you come to expect the unexpected as you read through it (cue lots of pages with just a couple of words scattered on it to frame suspense/drama, weird footnotes on almost every page etc).  The book has a dual narrative throughout which you'll either love or hate.  The main bulk of the story is based around 'The Navidson Record' - a creepy faux (or is it?) documentary write up of the events that happened to the Navidson family in their new house - and it's this part which I loved.  It's proper horror film material and features a random extending hallway that just appears in their house out of nowhere (WTF?!).

The other side of the dual narrative is told through Johnny; a down and out youth who comes across the Navidson Record, and then proceeds to ramble on and on about his life, whilst some weird things happen to him.  The huge courier font that his parts are written in aren't easy on the eyes either, so I found myself skim reading a lot of Johnny and his rambling.  I also had to skim read/and eventually just skip altogether, the footnotes, of which there were sometimes whole pages of them.  I know that this is part of the experimental fiction concept, but I found them really boring and annoying.  

Despite the parts I didn't enjoy, I'd still recommend this book to anyone who likes suspenseful and imaginative horror to read just The Navidson Record in it.  [3/5]

(2) The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin
In this intelligent Sci-Fi novel, the central theme describes two opposite planets; one is called Anarres and its residents live in a seemingly utopian anarchist community.  The other planet is called Urras and symbolises the supposed opposite of Anarres.  The story is told through the eyes of a super genius scientist from Anarres, Shevek.   It's through him that we realise everything is not as it seems, and even utopias have their problems that need to be addressed.

Although the novel itself comes across as quite dry (it's not the easiest to follow and to read it as an actual story can be difficult, even if you're anarchist minded to begin with), it makes a lot of interesting points about some of the potential flaws of anarchism/utopias, but it suggests ways in which elements can be combined with socialism to function more as a complete and sustainable society.  It's a fascinating book and one I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in politics and anarchism.  [4/5]

(3) We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived In The Castle is a short read and my first book (and no means last) by Shirley Jackson.  The backstory is a typical mystery (the Blackwood family are poisoned with arsenic, and the daughter Connie is later aquitted of the murder, so who did it?), and whilst its a recurring theme throughout the book, we don't really find out much detail about it. 

Instead, the story is mostly centered around the quirky close relationships of the three surviving Blackwoods; the narrator Merricat, Connie and elderly Uncle Julian.  Cue lots of weird and kooky dialogue, and a visit from a cousin with a hidden agenda.  The overall tone is more abstract creepy and a little unsettling, rather than straight out horror, so would suit those who like dark mystery themes.  [3/5]

(4) The Rats by James Herbert
A relatively short horror story set in 70s London.  Amongst the poverty and decay, giant rats are starting to attack and eat humans!  Those who manage to escape the rats after being bitten are infected with a virus that brings them to death's door in a horribly agonizing way.  Take it for what it is; a simple gory horror read!  [3/5]

(5) The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray has sat on my bookshelf for years so it's another book that I've read recently that I'm glad I've picked up, but I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed by it.  Despite it being a short book, it felt really long and characters whom I thought I would instantly love (such as Lord Henry and of course Dorian himself), didn't appeal to be as much as I hoped they would when I sat down and started reading.   Many have said that The Picture of Dorian Gray would have been better suited to a play and I'm inclined to agree with them.  The story as it stands as a novel, just didn't grab my attention much, though I did enjoy the overall concept.  [3/5]

(6) Satantango by László Krasznahorkai
This book reminded me so much of Kafka; it's dark, depressing, imaginative and even more depressing.  Some of the prose is really quite beautiful though, in a bleak kinda way.  Krasznahorkai uses that old chestnut of pathetic fallacy to its extremes in Satantango, setting the whole story virtually in endless rain and in a tiny little village in the middle of nowhere.  All of this reflects on the characters lives and behaviours as we see their village fall apart around them.   An interesting piece of literature, but don't read it if you're already feeling miserable; it's sure to only exacerbate any melancholy that might be brooding inside you.  [3/5]

What books have you been reading this month?
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  1. Love the look of "We Have Always Lived in a Castle"!! If you like this you might like "Gillespie and I" by Jane Harris. It is similarly disturbing rather than a horror story or murder mystery.


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