For the first time since I started setting a reading target on Goodreads, I’m behind. It’s grief, I suppose, although I’m not weeping or feeling awful, I’m somewhat tired and listless. I’m watching TV and knitting rather than reading or writing. I’ll have to shake myself up and get back to work. Like most people these days, I’m finding things a bit overwhelming, and in the face of war, climate disaster and disease, it’s hard to believe that there’s any point in publishing my own novels.
That’s not to say that reading hasn’t been a pleasure. I ended my January book blog with a note that I’d started Dan Simmons’ book ‘The Terror’.
Basically, the book is 98% about stubborn and short sighted English and Irish men travelling to the Arctic on a voyage of exploration. For a variety of reasons, they suffer and most of them die. Some of them die at the claws of a giant polar boar that is stalking the trapped ships, but a lot of them die of gangrene, drowning, scurvy and good old fashioned mutiny and cannibalism. And that is the vast majority of the book. Simmons has done his research, and he makes it clear exactly how miserable the explorers on The Terror and The Erebus were, for several miserable years. He lists the ships’ inventory in great detail, and repeatedly reviews the number of dead crewmen, their ranks, and cause of death. It’s tedious and long winded and almost made me give up. However, I’ve finished worse books than this, so I plodded on, even though the racism and misogyny were pretty nasty, because I kinda understood that the nastiness sprang from the characters, not the author.
As the end grew near, I began to hope that the tedium of the regurgitated research was making a point, about how boring life was on that fated expedition. The last few chapters covered the rescue and redemption of a sole survivor, and his growth into someone who could live with his environment instead of fighting against it. I quite enjoyed those chapters, but even at the end, the research that Simmons did into indigenous Arctic societies was right in the foreground of the story.
In the end, I got what I wanted from this novel. I wanted to find out more about the only truly intriguing character in the story, and even though they disappeared for a large chunk of the book, their reappearance saved it.
After ‘The Terror’, I thoroughly deserved Grady Hendrix’s ‘The Final Girl Support Group’. I’d been looking forward to it for months, and I finished it in two days. It was the book equivalent of party food. Here is my review.
I read this in two days, which shows that I enjoyed it. There’s been a lot of hype about it, and several people who I respect have recommended it, so it was on my ‘December list’ of books that I asked my husband to get me for Christmas.
So, if you don’t know, a Final Girl is the last survivor of a horror film, the one who kills the monster and quite often, kills him (it’s always a him) again.
The Final Girls of this story are the survivors of the massacres that horror film franchises were built on. They meet up regularly and secretly to discuss their lives and give each other the kind of emotional support that only they can understand. And then one of them is murdered, and everything that was wrong suddenly gets a hell of a lot worse.
It took me a while to get my head round the different Final Girls and their respective franchises and personalities, the book dives into the action before the characters are properly established, but that’s my only gripe. The plot takes so many twists and turns I felt like the Final Girl in a helter skelter massacre, and the ending is great.
Having finished The Final Girl Support Group in less than 48 hours, I picked up ‘We Sold Our Souls’ by the same author. It was a December gift from my husband, who got A LOT of brownie points for getting it so right. This book was made for me. Here’s my review.
It’s one thing to sell your soul for rock ‘n’ roll, but selling someone else’s is a bit naff, and definitely not in the spirit of things. It’s funny, isn’t it, how metal attracts the lost and lonely, but often ends up unflinchingly serving the big corporations and their ruthless lackeys?
So, Kris was a lost and lonely girl who discovered her inner guitar goddess and started a band. Terry was the older boy who sang her songs and sold her out. And decades later, Kris wants to know what exactly happened on contract night, and why her life turned to shit so fast and so completely. Meanwhile, Terry is on top of the world, and is planning the biggest metal festival ever. Which of them is going to get the band back together first?
I absolutely, unashamedly adored this book. I’ve had a soft spot for rock and roll horror since ’92, when the anthology ‘Shock Rock’ came out. There’s not enough of it about, but I’m proud that my first published short story ‘The Brane’ falls firmly into that category.
I also read an ARC of Aliette de Bodard’s new novellette, ‘Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances’ and I’ll tell you more about this little gem closer to publication day.