The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams

I wanted to start the New Year with a book that was funny, comforting, nostalgia-inducing and most of all entertaining. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read this book over the years. I’ve also listened to the wonderful radio play, watched both the classic BBC TV series and the less classic movie adaptation. Oh, I almost forgot, I’ve listened to a few different audiobook versions, too. Yes, I adore Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a definite 5-Star book for me. But I also realize it isn’t for everyone.

Geekify Inc’s HITCHHIKER’S I-Pad / Tablet / Kindle Cover

One of Douglas Adams’ greatest ideas was to write the reassuring words DON’T PANIC on the cover of the fictional book. How many of us could use this comforting reminder on a daily basis today? I could’ve made great use of it around ten to fifteen years ago when I was tumbling down my own self-induced rabbit hole, but that’s a tale best left for a never time. *insert winking emoji here*

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I have the impression that Hitchhiker’s works best for people from the United Kingdom. This is in no way meant to upset or anger anybody, it’s my opinion simply based on the kind of humour that permeates this wonderful book. It’s a very British style of humour filled with satire, sarcasm, the absurd, as well as being very self-deprecating. I’ve heard from friends from different countries that some of them “just don’t get it” when it comes to this book and the rest of the famous “trilogy in five parts“–I don’t recognize the supposed sixth book written by Eoin Colfer, but to be fair I haven’t read it and so it might be good. It just isn’t Douglas Adams.

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The Exorcist (1971) by William Peter Blatty

Over Halloween this year, I listened to an excellent audiobook version of The Exorcist read by the book’s author William Peter Blatty. I recommend it if you can find a copy. I’m from the UK and the home video version of The Exorcist was banned there for years. (According to Wikipedia it was withdrawn from sale in 1988 and not re-released until 1999.) I remember going to watch a midnight showing at my local cinema when they finally lifted the ban. I was in my early twenties and I can still recall the genuinely creepy atmosphere and sense of dread of the movie. And those brilliant practical effects. Yes, it scared me.

Synopsis

‘Actress and divorced mother Chris MacNeil starts to experience ‘difficulties’ with her usually sweet-natured eleven-year-old daughter Regan. The child becomes afflicted by spasms, convulsions and unsettling amnesiac episodes; these abruptly worsen into violent fits of appalling foul-mouthed curses, accompanied by physical mutation. Medical science is baffled by Regan’s plight and, in her increasing despair, Chris turns to troubled priest and psychiatrist Damien Karras.’


Published back in 1971, The Exorcist was a controversial book at its time of release and quickly became a bestseller. In interviews over the years, author William Peter Blatty has declared that he didn’t intend to make it so scary. He wanted to “write a novel that would not only excite and entertain, but would also make a positive statement about God, the human condition and the relationship between the two.”

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The Hellbound Heart (1986) by Clive Barker

‘So intent was Frank on solving the puzzle of Lemarchand’s box that he didn’t hear the great bell begin to ring. The device had been constructed by a master craftsman, and the riddle was this–that though he’d been told the box contained wonders, there simply seemed to be no way into it, no clue on any of its six black lacquered faces as to the whereabouts of the pressure points that would disengage one piece of this three-dimensional jigsaw from another.’

clive barker

Background

I watched the original Hellraiser movie (1987) back in the late 1980s. I thought it was such a unique idea for a horror movie and can still remember being freaked out by the Cenobites, especially the teeth-gnashing one. What are Cenobites? They are demonic beings that will “tear your soul apart” if you summon them. The hell priest who became known as “Pinhead” didn’t scare me, I just thought he was cool. What a fantastic character design!

Its voice, unlike that of its companion, was light and breathy—the voice of an excited girl. Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone. Its tongue was similarly decorated. “Do you even know who we are?” it asked.”

After learning that writer/director Clive Barker based the film on his novella The Hellbound Heart, I saught it out. I didn’t know Barker was already a published writer when he made Hellraiser. I quickly went on to read his excellent Books of Blood stories and his 1987 dark fantasy novel Weaveworld. I recommend the Books of Blood but Weaveworld left me cold. There are some good ideas in the book, but I found it to be too meandering and it kind of lost me in its weaving narrative. As far as I remember, many of the stories in Books of Blood are very good examples of the genre; I must get around to re-reading them.

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The Woods Are Dark (1981) by Richard Laymon

It’s that time of year again, the time for some Halloween Reads. Who can resist a dose or two of HORROR?

In the woods are six dead trees. The Killing Trees. That’s where they take them. Innocent travellers on the road in California. Seized and bound, stripped of their valuables and shackled to the Trees. To wait. In the woods. In the dark…

Publisher’s Synopsis

**Make sure you read the Restored & Uncut version**

There is a fascinating story behind this book. It was originally published in 1981 but the publishing company heavily and clumsily edited it. Author Richard Laymon agreed to the cuts because he was young, it was only his second novel, and he just wanted it to be released. However, when he read the edited version he was shocked to discover just how much had been cut and also rewritten by the editor. He believed his story had been ruined and now came across as fragmented and unsatisfying.

The good news is that Laymon’s original version of The Woods Are Dark was finally published in July 2008 after being reconstructed from the original manuscript by his daughter, Kelly. In a short introduction, she writes briefly about the process of piecing the original work back together. Sadly, Laymon was no longer alive to see his restored novel. He died of a heart attack in 2001.


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All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999) by William Gibson

Colin Laney, sensitive to patterns of information like no one else on earth, currently resides in a cardboard box in Tokyo. His body shakes with fever dreams, but his mind roams free as always, and he knows something is about to happen. Not in Tokyo; he will not see this thing himself. Something is about to happen in San Francisco.

from the synopsis

Let me begin with a caveat. I am a big fan of William Gibson’s writing and have read and enjoyed almost all of his short stoies and novels. I know his style isn’t for everyone but it really works for me. I love his ideas, his invention, the worlds he builds as well as his dialogue. How I wish I could write dialogue like Gibson.


All Tomorrow’s Parties is the third book in Gibson’s Bridge Trilogy, preceded by Virtual Light (1993) and Idoru (1996). It can be read as a standalone story even though it features a couple of characters from the other two books. This was published back in 1999 when people were all excitied about the approaching new millenium. Realizing that was 23 years ago is making me feel weird, like I somehow missed ten years or something. Do you ever get that feeling or is it only me? But I digress.

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The October Country (1955) by Ray Bradbury

“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…”


A very fine collection of Ray Bradbury’s earliest short stories. Many of these stories first appeared in the author’s little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. Bradbury is said to have reworked the stories for this collection published by Ballantine Books eight years later. He also added four new stories. It is now considered to be a classic showcase of American Gothic rather than out and out horror. Every single story is worth reading. Just allow yourself to get lost in Bradbury’s wonderful prose and memorable characters.

The stand-outs for me are The Jar, Uncle Einar, Homecoming, The Lake, The Scythe, and The Emissary. But readers will find much to enjoy in all of the stories. The October Country is meant to be read in autumn; it also makes perfect Halloween reading.

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Alphabet of Thorn (2004) by Patricia A. McKillip

Nepenthe is an orphan who has grown up working in a royal library in the city of Raine. She spends her days translating rare and unusual texts and has developed a real talent for it. During the coronation of the new Queen, a young mage gives Nepenthe a book that appears to be written in a language of thorns. This unique book has resisted all previous attempts at translation. As Nepenthe begins to work on it, something about the book draws her deeper and deeper into its thorny pages.

Cover art by Kinuko Craft
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MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors (1968) by Richard Hooker

From the Back Cover:

‘The doctors who worked in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) during the Korean War were well trained but, like most soldiers sent to fight a war, too young for the job. In the words of the author, “a few flipped their lids, but most of them just raised hell, in a variety of ways and degrees.”‘

I remember watching the TV series with my parents when I was young. Later, I discovered the Robert Altman film adaptation. After getting used to Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers as the surgeons Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce and “Trapper” John McIntyre, it was strange seeing them played by Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould in the 1970 movie. I haven’t watched the TV show in years but I re-watched the M*A*S*H film earlier this year. I really enjoyed it and it inspired me to read the book.

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Live and Let Die (1954) by Ian Fleming

The second book in Fleming’s James Bond series was published almost 70 years ago. It is important to remember this fact when you read it. It uses language that was fairly common in literature during the period the book was written and published. Some readers may find this language offensive. I had a quick look on Goodreads to see what kind of hellstorm there was in the “reviews” and it was pretty much what I expected. It reminded me of Twitter. But there were some sensible reviews that managed to focus on the story and characters. That’s what my review will do.


Live and Let Die takes 007 to Harlem, New York, Florida and Jamaica. Bond is on the trail of the infamous “Mr Big”, a criminal with links to American organized crime, SMERSH–part of the Soviet secret service–and Voodoo. Bond suspects that Mr Big is involved in a gold coin smuggling operation rumoured to be taking place off the coast of Jamaica. He heads to the States and meets up with CIA agent Felix Leiter, last seen in Casino Royale.

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The Wolfen (1978) by Whitley Strieber

The Wolfen was a recommendation from fellow blogger Sean P Carlin who described it as a pulpy but decent werewolf story that uses its 1970s New York setting very well. There aren’t very many werewolf books out there so I wanted to give it a try.

The author Whitley Strieber is probably most famous for his book Communion (1987) about his alleged encounters with extraterrestrial beings. I haven’t read that book but I remember watching the Christopher Walken movie from 1988. I only have vague memories of the film but I know it freaked me out at the time. Walken makes pretty much anything he stars in worth a look. It could be time for a re-watch.

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