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Posts Tagged ‘supernatural’

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The book – one of King’s most beloved works – is essentially a story of good vs evil, in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was initially published in 1978 and then reissued including parts that had been cut from the original publication (for financial reasons). In the later version, the setting was moved from 1980 to 1990. It was the later, bigger edition which I read, which came in at over 1300 pages. So a big brick of a book!

The books starts with a man made plague sweeping the earth and killing most humans, although a few remain immune. After the plague come the dreams – people dream of a faceless man who terrifies them, and an elderly lady who they see as a saviour. Two groups form – followers of the faceless man – Randall Flagg, and of the elderly lady – Mother Abagail.

The scene is set for an epic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil; between God and the Devil or certainly at least between their emissaries on earth.

The story has everything – the supernatural, horror, human relationships and the gamut of emotions – there is love, hate, fear and despair, hope and friendship. There are unlikely heroes and tragic villains. It’s epic in every sense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although on balance I still prefer Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, which I read earlier this year.

The Stand is a wonderful book though which really drew me in, and I really came to care about a lot of the characters. Stu Redman was my favourite character in the whole story and I also have a soft spot for Nick Andros. It took the me the best part of two months to read, which is a LONG time for me! But it was worth it. Highly recommended.

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This book is set in Dooling, West Virginia, but the events of the story are happening throughout the world.

A new global phenomenon which comes to be known as Aurora is affecting women as they sleep. They become cocooned in a web like structure, and if anyone tries to remove the webbing the women become uncontrollably violent. As women fight to stay away, inevitably they all (almost all anyway) fall asleep and the men are left to run things by themselves. It’s not long before they revert to their primal instincts.

In Dooling Correctional Prison however, there is  a new inmate named Evie Black, who is able to fall asleep and wake up normally, and opinion is divided over whether she needs to be studied in the hope of finding a cure, or whether she is a demon who needs to be killed.

I half wish I hadn’t chosen this book as my first book to read this year – I think it’s going to be hard for other books to live up to it, because quite honestly I LOVED this. It’s not a horror story, it’s more of a dystopian novel – and if there’s one genre guaranteed to get me interested, it’s dystopian fiction. The book raises the question of what the world would be like without the input of women, and while it’s fictional of course, so we cannot really know the answer, in this story at least, it’s not pretty!

As is normal with Stephen King (I’m not familiar with Owen King’s work, but after reading this would like to seek more out), there is a huge cast of characters, but I felt that they were all brought to life admirably and the distinct personalities shone through. There is the age old battle between good and evil, although both sides see themselves as good and the other as evil, and the suspense is maintained throughout.

I would say that this is a thoughtful and intelligent novel. Don’t be put off by the size – at just over 700 pages, it’s a big brick of a book – if this is a genre or theme that interests you, or if you have previously enjoyed Stephen King, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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I picked up this book because I had heard lots of good things about it, and because despite the fact that fantasy is not, and never has been a favourite genre of mine, the premise intrigued me.

The story is set in London and is narrated by Peter Jones, a young PC in the Metropolitan Police Service. This strange tale starts when he is trying to glean information about a vicious and unprovoked murder, only to find himself interviewing a witness who died more than a hundred years ago…

More murders follow and Jones and his partner Lesley and mentor Thomas Nightingale quickly work out that they are all linked, and something strange and unusual is causing them.

As if that weren’t enough, Peter and Nightingale also find themselves caught up in a feud between Mother Thames and Father Thames, who are arguing over who has jurisdiction of their River Thames; as a result, Peter meets the exotic and alluring Beverley Brook.

I enjoyed this book a lot – but not quite as much as I had hoped to, or indeed quite as much as the first fifty pages or so led me to think I might. I really liked the characters of Peter and Nightingale, and as narrators go, Peter is witty, likeable and extremely engaging. However, I think the plot got a bit too convoluted, mainly because the feud over the River Thames seemed pointless and really added nothing whatsoever to the main mystery, which was that of the murders. The  murders themselves were quite interesting and I liked that Peter had a foot in both the mortal world and the underworld of London where he could learn magic and make deals with ghosts.

So despite feeling that it was something of an anti-climax, the main two characters are enough for me to want to try the next book in the series. I also find that generally with series such as this one, the first book is never the strongest. This book has had very strong reviews elsewhere, so if you are thinking of reading it – and especially if fantasy is a genre you enjoy (bearing in mind that it is not one I usually choose to read) I would recommend giving this a try.

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This production by Middle Ground Theatre Company, features two short, spooky plays.  Both plays star Jack Shepherd and Terrence Hardiman in the main roles, with a small supporting cast.  In ‘Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad’ based on a short story by M R James, Shepherd plays Professor Parkins, a somewhat stuffy academic, who is stopping a small hotel on the East Coast, for a golfing holiday.  He finds an old whistle at a graveyard of the Templar Saints, and while showing it to a fellow guest, he blows it and a huge gale starts.  Parkins is sceptical about the existence of ghosts, but is soon driven to terror by whatever malevolent force he appears to have summoned up with the whistle.

The play was very enjoyable, with some unexpected moments of humour.  I wouldn’t describe it as an out-and-out horror, but it was spine-tingling, and had one moment of complete shock, which certainly made me (and those sitting around me) jump!  The performances by Shepherd and Hardiman (as the fellow guest) were excellent, and Dicken Ashworth was also on form as the hotel owner.

The second play, ‘The Signalman’ was based on a short story by Charles Dickens (not one I’d heard of, but one I’d like to read).  Shepherd is the titular character, an isolated signalman who is responsible for a who is haunted by an apparition which seems to warn him of an impending disaster on the lonely stretch of railway for which he is responsible.  As he explains to a traveller who he befriends (Hardiman), he has seen the ghost twice before, and after each sighting, there was a disaster on a train travelling on the line.  The traveller attempts to allay his fears, and believes that the signalman is hallucinating, but is there something in what the signalman says?

Although I enjoyed Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad very much, I think this was my favourite of the two plays.  The conversation between the two characters felt spontaneous and unscripted – and for most of the play, it WAS just these two characters talking – indeed Shepherd was on stage throughout – so there was a fair bit of dialogue, and it was performed seamlessly.  Again, it was not a horror story, but it was the kind of story that plays on your mind and keeps you thinking about it afterward.

The sound effects for both plays – especially the gales in the first play – added to the eerie atmosphere, and the acting was top-notch.  I also loved the simple but effective sets.  An excellent production in every sense, and well worth seeing.

(For more information about Middle Ground Theatre Company, or this production, please click here.)

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Hundreds Hall in Warwickshire, home to the Ayres family for years, used to be a grand country house.  However, in the post-WWII era, it is dilapidated, practically falling down around the family’s ears, and the finances are such that they are struggling to maintain it at all, while coming to terms with a changing society.  Doctor Faraday – the narrator of the book – meets the family, the widow Mrs Ayres and her two grown children Roderick and Caroline, when he comes to the hall to treat their young housemaid, but he is drawn into their lives, and becomes friendly with them.  But a series of strange and unsettling events, starts to take effect on the Ayres’, and it seems that there may be something sinister within Hundreds Hall, that is taunting the family.

I have read all of Sarah Waters’ books, and without exception, have enjoyed them.  The Little Stranger was brilliantly written, with a slow, creeping atmosphere, that left me feeling unsettled a couple of times.  Waters’ writing always flows so well, and I found myself reading huge chunks at a time, just not wanting to put the book down.  It was not a light or happy read, and in truth, not all (in fact, not many) of the characters were easy to warm to, although I suspect that may have been entirely intentional.  The Hall itself was just as much a character as any of the people that lived in it, and it was vividly described, making it, and the events which took place in it, all too easy to imagine.  The Doctor’s narration too, perfectly described both the isolated life of the Ayres, and his own, somewhat lonely life as a bachelor with few real friends.

I had no clue as to how the story was going to end, and was eager to find out what would happen – and here is my only criticism of the book, because the ending was something of a let-down.  I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I certainly did not find the big twist that I felt sure must be coming at any moment, the nearer I got to the last page.  That kind of left me with a “is that it?” feeling, when I finished the book, which is something that I’m not used to feeling with Sarah Waters books.  All the time I was reading this, I thought it was going to be a 5 star book, but because of the ending, I ended up giving it 4.

Having said that however, it was still a book which was thoroughly worth reading, and which I would recommend, purely because the writing itself is so good, and Waters really knows how to ratchet up the tension.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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E Block, Cold Mountain State Penitentiary, in 1932, is the setting for this stunning book.  The green mile of the title refers to the floor of the block, and the green mile is the last walk that the prisoners of E block will ever take – for this block is for those prisoners who have been sentenced to execution in the electric chair.

Narrated by warden Paul Edgecombe, decades after the main events of the book took place, this tells the story of a very unusual prisoner who came to the prison, namely John Coffey, a huge black man who has been sentenced to die for rape and murder of two young sisters.  John is like no other prisoner that the wardens have ever seen, either physically or in any other way.  As he spends time on the ward, the truth behind his story unfolds.  John seems to have certain powers  to enable him to save others who are in danger – but will it be enough to save himself?

I must preface thsi review by saying that I probably won’t be able to do this book justice here.  It really is a fabulous book, and I am anxious not to give away any spoilers, but I’ll say right at the outset that I loved it.

This story is something of a departure for Stephen King – the supernatural elements for which he is well known are all here, but this is not a horror story.  It is in fact an incredibly moving story, which was genuinely hard to put down.  The events are narrated at time far removed from when they actually happened (Edgecombe is, by the time of the telling of the story, an old man living in a retirement home), when racism was rife and the electric chair was seen as a fitting punishment for heinous crimes (by some – and maybe some would still see it as a fitting punishment, but it made me shudder).

The book was originally published as a six part serial, which explains some of the repititon at the beginning of each segment (the last part of the previous segment was repeated, obviously to remind the reader what had happened previously).  Obviously such repetition is redundant when reading the book in one go, but I think it actually helped the story along rather than detracted from it at all.  The writing is incredibly emotional in parts (I cried a few times, which is rare for me when reading a book), and although it is not a thriller as such, I still sometimes found myself holding my breath in anticipation of what was to follow.  The writing flows so well, and the main characters are all very well drawn (I especially liked Brutus Howell, Paul Edgecombe’s friend and colleague).

Overall it is a story that shows the very best and the very worst of humanity, it is a story of great power, and it is a story which I highly recommend to anybody.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Click here for my review of the 1999 film adaptation.

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