Friday, May 13, 2011

The Horror and the Horror

It's been a little while since I reviewed any books on here and seeing as how Blogger was down yesterday, combined with the fact that I'm heading away for the weekend, time is crunched and it seems like a good time to catch up. As I mentioned in my last post, my writing has been living in a dark place, typically my reading follows me where my writing takes me. So I've decided to tell you a little about two books that are both 'horror' for very different reasons. Enjoy...if that's the right word.

The House of Dolls by Ka-tzetnik 135633

I've owned a first edition of this book for nearly a decade and for nearly a decade it sat on my shelves unread. That was a decade wasted because this is rare book of genius. My initial interest stemmed from the fact that Joy Division supposedly took their name from this book. However, I've read so many Holocaust books in my time that it never seemed like the book to read...seriously, when is anyone in the mood for a Holocaust book. I still wasn't when I read it, I just felt guilty that I'd owned it for so long without giving it a chance.

The power of this book comes from the way it captures the feeling of utter helplessness in the Jewish ghettos and labor camps under Nazi rule. Told through a kind of stream of consciousness narrative, much of the text feels as if it could easily be a dispatch from Burrough's Interzone. It's so stark in the realism of an insane world that it feels surreal in many passages.

The story is that of a brother and sister, stripped of their homes, freedom, and family, who refuse to surrender their humanity. In a way, it's a story in total opposition with The Diary of Anne Frank which highlights the remarkable way in a which a young girl is able to still be a young girl despite the horrible conditions of her life. As the hardships in this story mount, that hopeful spirit within Daniella is gradually crushed until she is like the others, simply a walking skeleton. Brutal, to be sure...yet there is something beautiful inside her that is undeniable.

Truly an unforgettable book.

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Perhaps my expectations were too high given my love of Guillermo Del Toro's imaginative film making (Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone), but I found this book disappointing. I had hoped some of the visionary creativity from his movies would carry over into the writing, however this book reads much like any other mass market thriller. There are loop holes aplenty in the story, there's entirely too many flat characters, and it drags for the first 100 pages, unfolding like an average television show.

It does start to pick up after that however. Some of the characters become really intriguing and the mythology begins to take shape. The redeeming quality of the book is its terrifying imagining of the vampires. The last third of the book was engrossing, once they finally pushed the plot toward the chaos that was bound to happen. Hopefully the second book will be better paced and more surreal. (This is the first book in a trilogy)


  1. Thanks for the review of the strain. I have been wanting to read it, but I seemed to have mixed feelings about it.

  2. I love Joy Division and had no idea this book was where they got their name. I'll definitely have to check it out!

  3. The House of Dolls looks very good thanks for the review.