A round-up of the books that I read this month, including a lot of horror for Halloween!
(1) Minority Report by Philip K. Dick
Science Fiction / Short Stories: "Viewed by many as the greatest science fiction writer on any planet, Philip K. Dick has written some of the most intriguing, original and thought-provoking fiction of our time."
Despite my love of all things sci-fi, I had never read anything by the great master Philip K. Dick before, and Minority Report was the first book that I spotted on the shelf when I decided to rectify this situation. I didn't realise that Minority Report itself was a short story, and so this edition also features eight other shorts including several which have been made into films.
Every story in this compilation is strong, and I can now see why so many people have such a high regard for PKD's work, and I can also clearly see how truly influential he has been in the industry. His stories are so engaging and gripping that I flew through this book, and I was sorely disappointed when I had finished it. Favourites of mine in this edition were Imposter, Minority Report, Second Variety, War Game and The Electric Ant. [5/5]
(2) True Irish Ghost Stories by John D. Seymour
Horror / Short Stories: "Classic ghost stories from Ireland ,compiled at the turn of the 20th century."
It wouldn't be Halloween without reading some old ghost stories, and John D Seymour's compilation of allegedly 'true' Irish ones, definitely ticked all the right boxes with its enticing blurb on the back cover. Sadly though, whilst it does have its creepy moments here and there, most of these 'real-life' accounts are quite dull, and hark back to a time where people were deeply religious and in turn, were stupidly superstitious about virtually everything which made them terrified of virtually everything! I'd like to say that times have changed, but when I read up on current affairs and politics, I'm really not so sure... [2/5]
(3) Books Of Blood Volumes 1-3 by Clive Barker
Horror / Short Stories: "16 remarkable horror short stories with which he kicked off Clive Barker's career."
My friends who love horror will hate me for saying this, but I think that Clive Barker is massively overrated. Don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of the man himself; his sheer intelligence, creativity and alternative outlook on the world is awe-inspiring, yet I find myself not being completely pulled in by his fiction work. I don't know why, but there's just something about it which is a bit too pretentious and convoluted for my liking.
Books Of Blood is a prime example of this. I loved the first two stories, The Book Of Blood and The Midnight Meat Train, but the rest were just 'OK' for me. His prose is beautifully vivid and clever which I love, yet a lot of the stories and characters just didn't gel with me. [3/5]
(4) Frighteners by Mary Danby
Horror / Short Stories: "Stories of stark originality and chilling humour, told by some of the horror world's most imaginative fear-mongers."
An excellent selection of short horror stories compiled by Mary Danby who released lots of these sorts of books to champion unknown writers back in the '70s and '80s. Frighteners is from the mid-'70s and many of the stories have a wonderful, old-school horror element to them which you don't often find in contemporary works anymore. Admittedly some are much better than others, but I particularly enjoyed The Quiet Man, Lost Soul, Old Hether's Picture, The Catomado, Dissolving Partnership, and The Mask. Each tale is very different from the next, so it's a fun, varied bunch to keep you company this Halloween. [4/5]
(5) A Life Stripped Bare by Leo Hickman
Non-Fiction / Environmental: "It is hardly news that a growing number of people want to step back from the brink of Western consumerism and find a way to live an all-round cleaner existence. So how do we go about it?"
After reading Kate Lock's Confessions Of An Eco-Shopper last month, a friend recommended this book to me, so I grabbed a copy from the library to check it out. It's very similar in concept to Kate Lock's book, but goes into more detail overall, as Leo challenges himself to live more ethically for a year.
Leo's experience is recalled in a series of chapters where he invites 'auditors' to come into his home and offer advice to himself and his family on the changes that they can all make. Interspersed between these, are letters and emails from the general public who also wrote in with everyday and innovative ways in which he can live more eco-friendly and ethically, as well as sharing their own struggles and failures when they were starting out with making the switch to a more sustainable way of living. An interesting read and a great starting point for anyone interested in this subject. [3/5]