<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - FEATURES]]>Thu, 22 Mar 2018 09:45:58 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[TIM LEBBON THE DIFFICULT MIDDLE BOOK - HOW TO MAKE THE MIDDLE BOOK OF A TRILOGY STAND OUT]]>Mon, 19 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/tim-lebbon-the-difficult-middle-book-how-to-make-the-middle-book-of-a-trilogy-stand-out
The Folded Land is the second book of the Relics trilogy.  Relics was book one, and next year's The Edge will be book three. This makes The Folded Land, undeniably and irrefutably by all laws of maths and reason, book two.  And that's fine.
But it's also the middle book of the trilogy, and any writer will tell you that a middle book is always a tough one.  Book one has established the world and rules, the characters and their arcs, and it has hopefully left readers wanting more.  Book three will bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, giving characters the resolutions they demand and deserve to end the story. 
Book two needs to do a lot more than just bridge the gap. 
I've read trilogies where the second book feels something like a pause, or which often expands and pads out a story where no real expansions and padding is needed.  I never wanted The Folded Land to feel like that.  In my head, these three books have always been standalone adventures in a wider world.  There's a background story arc of course, but it's the spine upon which the more diverse stories are expanded and hung, a connecting thread that I hope will offer as much enjoyment as the individual books and their tales.
I thought a lot about The Folded Land before starting it.  To begin with, I knew it was going to be set somewhere other than London (the reasoning behind the USA setting is subject of another blog post).  That in itself would make it distinctive, because I think Relics is a very 'London' novel.  I also knew that as well as characters familiar from Relics––Angela and Vince, Lilou and Mallian, and of course Fat Frederick Meloy––I needed to introduce new characters and, in some ways, make it as much their story as well. 
I think that this introduction of new point of view characters give The Folded Land a very fresh feel.  We're still following the story of the amazing Kin and their possible exposure to the wider world, but in doing so from fresh eyes (a new character), there's still that sense of wonder which I think gave Relics such a powerful feel and atmosphere.  Sammi was a fun character to write, especially because of her link to a character readers will recognise from the first book. 
And Gregor is terrific fun.  I love writing bad guys, and Gregor is one of the baddest. 
So, The Folded Land is the Difficult Middle Book, but one in which I've done my best to incorporate much of a standalone story, an adventure that can be told and enjoyed independently of Relics and forthcoming third book The Edge.  The bigger, wider world is still there, and The Folded Land is the solid core of the story.  Without everything that happens in this book, the events of The Edge––still to be written, but taking a very definite shape in my head––would be very different.
The Folded Land awaits you.  Step inside.



<![CDATA[EXPLORING THE LABYRINTH: KIT POWER VISITS THE CITY OF THE DEAD]]>Mon, 19 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/exploring-the-labyrinth-kit-power-visits-the-city-of-the-deadBY KIT POWER 
Exploring The Labyrinth
In this series, I will be reading every Brian Keene book that has been published (and is still available in print), and then producing an essay on it. With the exception of Girl On The Glider, these essays will be based upon a first read of the books concerned. The article will assume you’ve read the book, and you should expect MASSIVE spoilers.
I hope you enjoy my voyage of discovery.

2. City of the Dead

Written alongside Terminal, City of the Dead is a direct sequel to The Rising. In the foreword to the Deadite Press Author's Preferred Text edition of CotD, Keene with typical candor explains that initially, this was the book he didn’t want to write. As he’d said in his introduction to The Rising, though a lot of reader feedback for that novel complained that the end was ambiguous, he felt it was pretty clear that Jim and his son were dead (with Frankie and Martin likely not far behind), and he didn’t want to go back to it.
As I noted in my previous essay, about The Rising, I can see his point. Certainly the ending of the book didn’t feel ambiguous to me, and it wasn’t immediately clear to me where another novel length story was going to come from. Perhaps more fundamentally, given the emotional state The Rising was written under (”I wrote it as a form of therapy… quite frankly, I wrote it to keep from killing myself...” - The Horror Show with Brian Keene, Episode 6), you can see how Keene might not have been relishing returning to that world and it’s characters - especially as he also had Terminal vying for his attention (and indeed he wrote both novels at the same time - Terminal in the mornings, CotD in the afternoons).
That said, he also notes that once the writing got underway, he increasingly found himself caught up in the narrative of City of the Dead. He also discusses his ‘pantser’ approach to writing novels, with a premise, opening sentence, and a vague idea of the finale - other than that, he’s making it up as he goes along. He describes his growing pleasure with discovering the novel on the page, and how looking back, it was one of the most fun writing experiences of his career.
Jim Mcleod, editor in chief for Gingernuts of Horror, describes City of the Dead like this:
The City of the Dead proved that  Keene's zombies were probably the most important development in the zombie genre for our generation.  And cemented Keene's place in the pantheon of writers we should be paying attention to. 
As for me - I had a blast. Again.
I wasn’t expecting to, to be honest. I can be quite militant about stories ending at natural break points. I was a big Buffy fan back in the day, but I’ve only seen seasons 6 and 7 once, and looking back, I wish that I hadn’t bothered - the finale of Season 5 was written as the show closer, and it works perfectly as that. And my position on RoboCop sequels is even more militant. Given that, and my feelings about the ending of The Rising, I shared Keene’s antipathy about returning to these characters. But that feeling melted away almost instantly once I started turning the pages.
You can almost feel Keene’s enthusiasm catch on the page, as the book unfolds. The action in the first third of the book is relentless, as Frankie, Martin, Jim and Danny try, with the help of neighbour Don, to escape from the trap they’ve backed themselves into. Set piece flows into set piece, with the same cinematic qualities and flare of the last third of The Rising, albeit on a smaller scale - though interestingly, despite that, the stakes feel higher, as I’d come to really care about these characters by this point.
A particular highlight for me was the moment the cast have to cross to the attic window of the neighbour’s house across a ladder, while the zombies (some of them armed, remember) swarm below.
It’s a classic movie scene, and Keene put me right there, heart in mouth, as the characters made their way across - and when Danny made the mistake of looking down, and froze at the halfway mark, I was far too caught up in the sweaty tension of the moment to be worried about the relatively predictable nature of the event.
Sidebar: I’m only three books in (including Clickers), but one thing I’m already discovering; for me, as a reader, I’m far less bothered by cliche than I might have supposed. Because the freeze-halfway-across thing is an absolute staple of pulp storytelling, be it action or horror. What I’m learning is simply this; that doesn't bother me, as long as the story is well told and I believe in and care about the characters. Because an eight year old freezing in that moment of existential dread may be predictable, and dramatically useful, but it’s also, well, realistic. Not only did the moment not bother me, I was totally caught up in it, freaking out right along with Jim, and hoping like hell Danny wasn’t going to end up in that pool. It’s only now, a month or so later as I sit to write about the experience, that it’s occured to me that this was an absolute stock horror/action moment.
There’s probably a lesson about storytelling in there somewhere.
In the event, it’s Frankie that ends up taking the unscheduled high dive, and I gotta tell you, I was pissed about that. Frankie became one of my favourite fictional characters somewhere between her escape from the Zoo and her cold turkey session in the sewers - but at the same time, this is my second Brina Keene novel, and I know damn well he could quite happily kill her off. It’s an enormous strength of the storytelling, as I think back on the novel, actually - in The Rising Keene makes it clear that no-one is safe, and it gives sustained action sequences like this one a considerable extra layer of bite (pun intended).
It’s also a brilliant bit of misdirection, as Frankie takes injury after injury, seemingly fatally wounded… and then it’s Martin who is killed as the car crashes. The moment worked well for me, underlining the peril the group were facing, and of course Jim having to smash the head of his friend in with a rock as he turns is a reminder of the merciless nature of The Rising’s world.
I really cannot emphasise enough how ferocious the pacing is in this sequence, especially following the car crash. The peril is enormous and sustained, for a second almost convincing me that Danny was going to get ripped apart, and Frankie’s back-from-the-dead intervention was a pure punch-the-air moment (did I mention she’s my favourite yet?) The desperate scramble to the parking garage, the last minute rooftop rescue… It’s just pure adrenaline, and by the time the characters were pulled aboard the chopper, I was almost as out of breath as they were.
Two other narrative strands also develop as this sequence unfolds. The first is the reintroduction of Ob, a leader of the Sissquim, who featured prominently in The Rising. His initial sequence I wasn’t wild about - his delivery of a gloating monologue to a captive prisoner, explaining more about the Sissquim and their background, felt like a clumsy info dump to me - especially with Ob having become a POV character. I’d have prefered to learn his background more organically, perhaps as internal dialogue as he planned his next move. It’s particularly annoying because the mythos itself is such an interesting one, and I wished there had been a more elegant way to introduce it.
That said, the loss of Ob’s body, and his subsequent locating of a new host (during which we learn how that process works, and Ob gets an update on the global progress of the Sissquim) worked well for me, and his subsequent plans to complete the purge of New York City felt appropriately sinister - and, of course, neatly and plausibly put him back on a collision course with Jim and his people.
And then there’s the small matter of Ramsey Towers.
Again, in the intro to the book, Keene discusses the similarity between his setting of Ramsey Towers and the plot of Romeo’s Land of the Dead. And his basic explanation is, hey, it was 2005 - with Bush starting his second term, the founding of the DHS and the Patriot act, megalomaniac American despots (albeit paternalistic ones), with dead eyed second-in-commands who wielded most of the real power and smarts were very much the order of the day.
But I have to say, reading this in 2017, having a eponymous tower in New York, owned by a billionaire with a tendicy to masterbate while staring out of his top floor office window at the city below, utterly delusional and convinced of his own brilliance, even as the entire world crumbles around him… was it Twain who said ‘history may not repeat, but it does rhyme’? Because, damn.
Anyhow, leaving aside the genuinely unsettling effect of reading a book written in 2005 that nonetheless seems to be a dead-on satire of the 45 President of the USA and his isolationist fantasies, there’s so much to enjoy in the setup. The legend of the ‘impenetrable’ tower, at least according to its owner (even as his number 2 is more clear eyed) serves as a nice thematic microcosm for the mythos as a whole - a small, fragile chink of light and warmth we call society, surrounded by a consuming darkness that could sweep it all away at any moment (and also, the meaning of The Tower as a symbol in tarot) - but also works well on its own terms. The idea that someone post 9/11 would want to build a siege-and-bomb-proof tower in Manhattan rings plausible (especially a billionaire real estate developer - would he’d gotten the idea before forming an exploratory committee, and yeah, okay, I’ll stop now). The power dynamic between delusional Ramsey and hyper competent Bates is quickly established, as is the atmosphere of a fragile, frighteningly vulnerable order barely holding together.
Similarly, seeing Jim and the gang explore the community that’s rescued them, Jim in particular feeling his way around the edges of it, trying without being impolite to see what’s really going on, is well told, and the Jim/Danny relationship is just heartbreakingly well drawn. The situation is a parenting nightmare, and I found it affecting to see Jim trying to negotiate the impossible task of helping his son prepare for life in this new world, while still needing him to be a kid, as much as possible. It really is possible to see the outline of the Carl and Rick relationship from The Walking Dead being sketched out here, albeit in a more compressed form, and the whole sequence rings painfully true.
As with the climax to The Rising, I was really impressed by how well the final third of the novel flowed. Keene deftly introduces elements - the truly twisted doctor and his captive zombie, the increasing morale problems with the guards, Ob’s gathering of his forces and planning, and the power struggle at the very top between Ramsey and Bates - and weaves them together deftly, switching between groups to heighten the sense of dread and impending violence. It’s really skillful storytelling, particularly when you consider it was for the most part being discovered on the page.
And when the dam bursts, the onslaught is every bit the equal of the previous finale - action packed, relentless, and brutal. Again, Keene’s flair for cinematic action is put to great effect, relentlessly chewing through characters (often literally) as the dwindling band of survivors makes a last desperate bid to escape via the sewers. Again, I’m reminded what I love most about good pulp entertainment - this commitment to utterly command my attention as a reader, through sheer force of incident, character, action - and what a joy it is to read, done well.
The final confrontation with Jim and Ob is suitably high stakes, and Jim’s sacrifice to save his son feels earned, especially knowing Danny will have Frankie to protect him. That said, I did find the coda ending hard to take. I can’t argue with it in narrative terms - it’s the right, probably the only real ending the story can have, and at least Danny and Frankie get to go out relatively quick - but it still landed like a suckerpunch in the moment. It’s early days, but it feels like with both this book and The Rising, there’s a nihilism at the core of Keene’s work - a notion, crudely, that we’re all fucked, and that our journey to our final destination is unlikely to be peaceful or pleasant.
That makes for uncomfortable reading, at times. But it also makes for great horror. And City of the Dead is another great pulp action horror novel - brimming with thrills and spills, blood and guts - and also a raw humanity, real characters in impossibly bleak circumstances, pushed beyond any reasonable limit and making the best choices they can.
It’s pulp, sure - in the best possible meaning of the term. But it’s also got a lot of heart, and so far, that’s what elevates Keenes work, for me.
I look forward to seeing if that theme continues in Terminal.

check out the other entries in this series 



<![CDATA[THE HOLLOW TREE BY JAMES BROGDEN]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-hollow-tree-by-james-brogden
‘The Hollow Tree’ is a ghost story heavily inspired by an unsolved wartime murder mystery local to me – that of Bella in the Wych Elm.

On the 18th of April 1943, four lads poaching in Hagley Wood south of Birmingham found the skeletal remains of a woman hidden in the hollow trunk of an ancient elm tree. The resulting police investigation created more questions than it answered, especially when graffiti appeared in Birmingham which read ‘Who put Bella down the Wych Elm?’ and she changed from being an anonymous corpse into a woman with a name, and hence a family and identity. That identity has never been established – let alone that of her killer or killers – a situation not helped by the loss of her remains during the War. This in turn created fertile ground for several competing narratives about Bella’s life and fate.

In some she is a British double agent – a cabaret-singer-turned-spy betrayed by her wartime contacts and murdered to stop her revealing their secrets, her remains having been destroyed by MI5. In others she is a prostitute, killed by a ‘client’. The discovery of bones from one of her hands in nearby leaf-litter was clear evidence of gypsy witchcraft, proof that she had been sacrificed and her hand severed in an attempt to create a ‘hand of glory’. All of this is despite the fact that there is no evidence of gypsies or witches ever being active in the area, and the one cabaret-singer who might have fitted her description was still recording songs several years after Bella’s body was found. Given the chaos of wartime, the police did their best to find any ‘Bellas’, or variations on that name, who had been reported missing, but came up with nothing. To this day Bella’s death remains unexplained. The case is closed, officially unsolved.

The danger in writing her story was, as I saw it, of falling into the trap of trying to uncover the ‘truth’ of her death and end up with a historical murder-mystery. If that’s what you’re interested in there are any number of excellent books on the subject, picking apart the evidence for and against the various theories. Steve Punt made a particularly thorough documentary for Radio 4, and a recent independently produced short film by Thomas Lee Rutter is well worth a watch. My reason for playing fast and loose with the historical details was in an attempt to get at something deeper than a simple ‘solution’ to the mystery – something about the different people that each of us is in life and what that might mean for us in the afterlife, if there is one.

So Bella became Mary – or Marys, to be pedantic. Like most things which seemed like a good idea at the time, the central conceit of the story was straightforward enough: what if you came back from the dead but the only way you knew who you were was from the stories that the living told about you? What if those stories conflicted with each other? And what if Death came after you to take you back – except that Death didn’t know which ‘you’ it wanted?

Bella’s elm became Mary’s oak, and Hagley Wood became the Lickey Hills, near my home. The original elm was destroyed long ago and only a few people know exactly where it stood. In my story the place where the ‘Mary Oak’ once stood is better known, and serves as a kind of shrine, with the trees around the clearing decorated with ribbons, rags and trinkets. There is no rag tree in the Lickeys – at least not to my knowledge – but there is a clootie well a few miles away in St Kenelm’s pass which runs between the Clent Hills. Folkore has it that Kenelm, a Mercian prince, was murdered by an ambitious relative and his body hidden there, and that when it was discovered and disinterred a fresh-water spring burst out of his grave. That spring is now in the grounds of St Kenelm’s church, and the trees around it are decorated with ribbons, shoelaces and scraps of paper.
Scratch the ground pretty much anywhere and you’ll find the bodies of old legends, and sometimes the new myths born from their bones.

The Bella graffiti also appeared on the base of a large obelisk in a field near the woods where her remains were found. The monument was erected in the 1700s by the Sir Thomas Lyttleton, owner of the Hagley Hall Park, as part of the then-fashionable vogue for manufacturing picturesque landscapes. The lettering is refreshed from time to time, always anonymously, and is something of a macabre navigation point if you’re rambling the fields around Hagley. There is also a much larger obelisk in the Lickeys – this one raised in the 1800s to the memory of the 6th Earl of Plymouth who went by the improbable-sounding name of Other Archer Windsor, which suited as a replacement for the purposes of the story. This is the landscape where a certain Mr Tolkien lived for part of his childhood and used to ramble around, making up stories of hobbits and orcs and walking trees. It has nothing to do with ‘The Hollow Tree’ except that I think sometimes I’m being stalked by coincidences.

‘The Hollow Tree’ is published by Titan Books and released on March 13th. Please buy a copy and say nice things about it.


<![CDATA[THE MODERN TANTALUS:  A RESPONSE TO DESECRATION]]>Mon, 12 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-modern-tantalus-a-response-to-desecrationBy George daniel lea
“When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?”
Frankenstein, or The Moden Prometheus. Mary Shelley
I consider myself fairly unflappable when it comes to the raw sewage the British tabloids generally wallow in, that they force feed to the nation, that they hurl into our faces, all the while insisting that it is the ambrosia of truth.
From stories designed to incite racial and tribal hatreds to homophobic screeds, from deliberate attempts to sew divisions between class brackets and varying standards in education, the likes of The Sun, The Daily Mail et al are depthless and entirely without scruple when it comes to the poisonous, cancerous, sceptic filth that they pump into culture, their willingness to do so only equalled by their readership's unthinking inclinations to devour it.
We accept this hideousness as a matter of course, as part and parcel of culture, because, for many of us, it is what we have become used to, what we grew up with; monolithic in the way of the sky being up and the soil being down.
“The whole series of my life appeared to me as a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed it were all true, for it never presented itself to my mind with the force of reality.”
Frankenstein, or The Moden Prometheus. Mary Shelley
For the most part, I don't waste time or energy concerning myself with it any longer; neither the publications themselves nor the readership that are willing to bloat on their poison are worth the expenditure.
However, a recent effort by The Sun I have to applaud, in that it succeeded in making my jaw hit the floor in utter, appalled incredulity:
Initially, I laughed, presuming, naturally enough, that the article was one of the many parodies or satire pieces at The Sun's expense, poking fun at how little regard it has for its reader's intelligence and critical capacities.
However, laughter soon gave way to a kind of polluted awe upon researching the article and finding it not to be satire or parody (evidence, in fact, that such things are impossible when it comes to the likes of this foetid rag), but a genuine article. 
I'm refering, of course, to the recent idiocy penned by self-proclaimed “journalists” (yes, it actually took two people to write something that has less meaning, sincerity and genuine grasp of its own subject matter than what I scrape out of the cat's litter box every morning), Gary O'Shea and Thea Jacobs (links below) provocatively entitled Flakensteins. 
“Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!”
Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley.
Unlike O'Shea and Jacobs, who, judging by the article, have never actually read Mary Shelley's epoch-making work of science fiction horror, humanitarian metaphysics and despairing cultural commentary, those of us who adore horror, science fiction and literature in general celebrated this January, which marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus); a work that is enshrined not only within the annals of horror literature, but literature in general; one of the most iconic, enduring and powerfully complex pieces in the history of fiction.
But what do these journalistic equivalents of drunken, slurring thugs do to celebrate that milestone? Do they pen a piece considering why it has endured for so long, why it is still studied at every level of literature, from high school to university and beyond? Do they attempt some sort of analysis as to its cultural significance, its moral complexities, the extremely problematic metaphysical questions it poses and the relevance it still has for scientific inquiry?
Do. They. Fuck. 
Instead, they commit the journalistic equivalent of drunken desecration; they slam through the doors of the temple, the museum, they scrawl illegible, barely coherent nonsense over the paintings and icons, smear their own shit across the frescoes and tapestries, wipe their drooling faces and sore-pocked arses on the masterworks of literature:
Flakensteins: an article in which, rather than celebrating this peculiar work of British fiction (ironic, given the superficial, faux nationalism this rag constantly invokes as a means of making its readership sit up and drool like Pavlov's dogs), they use it as a means of assaulting students and academics for comprehending one of the most superficial implications of the text itself; a reading so overt that children who aren't even in highschool understand it:
“Frankenstein has been dubbed 'misunderstood' by snowflake students who see the monster as a victim.”

Flakensteins, The Sun, 05/03/2018
​This is not some liberal, PC contrivance, some post-modern, political reading designed to push any kind of agenda: this is overt within the text, for anyone that has bothered to actually read it: 
“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley.
The entire purpose of the text is an examination of what it means to be human, to be sentient, to have a soul and animus and life; the “monster” is the perfect vessel for those considerations, and, as those of us who have read the fucking book know, this is the entire point: he is not some lurching, grunting, mindlessly violent entity; he is  a victim, of his creator, who had no right to impose unwanted and cruel consciousness on him, then to reject him for his imperfections: a sublimely complex exmaination of the fundamental evils that are part and parcel of conscious being; of the tensions that exist between creators and their creations, between parents and children, between God and man, between science and metaphysics... 
“Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.”

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley.
But, of course, the “journalists” are aware of this. I lambast them for not understanding, for not having read the text (or comprehending it if they have), but I doubt that's actually the truth. That would simply make the article an act of pure ignorance and presumption.
No; this is an entriely conscious act of desecration, of cultural vandalism, and a profound, multifarious insult not only to those of us that love the text, but to The Sun's own readers:
What O'Shea and Jacobs are effectively saying to you is: we know that you are too illiterate and incurious to go and read the text yourself, that you will simply swallow the tribal, rabble-rousing swill we are raping it in order to manufacture: we believe our readers are fucking idiots, without even the sufficient curiosity or capacity to download an e-copy of the book or to simply look up quotes from it on their mobile phones.
But, beyond that, it is an act of the most thuggish vandalism and desecration: As a lover of horror and of literature, as a writer of fiction directly inspired by the likes of Mary Shelley, this wanton, drunken, lurching, inarticulate vacuous assault upon literature and literacy themselves is disgusting conduct, especially from individuals that DO have the capacity to sit at their keyboards and actually type semi-coherent sentences, and who therefore benefit themselves from some degree of literacy and education.
It is a promotion of the most vile ignorance; a condemnation of critical capacity, as though actually engaging academically with a work of fiction is somehow a confection of liberal elitism, instead of what stories are, how and why they function.
Well, I say to O'Shea and Jacobs: you might feel insulated in your blithe ignorance as you rampage through our gardens and our temples, as you smear your filth across our sacred texts and artefacts, but believe me, there are no melting snowflakes here; you have trespassed where you have no business being, and invited others to do so. That you are paid to do so is one of the most flagrant examples of society's sickness I have ever seen.
You want to appeal to the “torch and pitchfork” crowd? Fine. Let's see how you feel when you are cast in the monster's role, when you are the grunting, unthinkingly violent and vandalistic thing you clearly wish your readers to believe of the monster, despite all literary evidence to the contrary.
“I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley.
To my fellow lovers and creators of horror, of science fiction; of literature in general, I urge you to be angrier about this, to throw these trespassing, drunken vandals out of the gardens, out of the temples, leave them exiled and excommunicate, until they can comport themselves with some degree of dignity and grace.
And finally, to everyone reading this, please go and read the book, and make up your own damn minds.


<![CDATA[competition: win a copy of the hollow tree by james brogden]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 17:45:50 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/competition-win-a-copy-of-the-hollow-tree-by-james-brogden
James Brogden's The Hollow Tree is officially released on Tuesday 13 March, to celebrate the launch of the book Ginger Nuts of Horror has two copies of the book to give away.  For a chance to win a copy simply follow these links and like and share the Facebook and Twitter Posts that they link to. 

And for an extra chance to win please like and follow us on these social media networks.  



After her hand is amputated following a tragic accident, Rachel Cooper suffers vivid nightmares of a woman imprisoned in the trunk of a hollow tree, screaming for help. When she begins to experience phantom sensations of leaves and earth with her lost hand, Rachel is terrified she is going mad… but then another hand takes hers, and the trapped woman is pulled into our world. She has no idea who she is, but Rachel can’t help but think of the mystery of Oak Mary, a female corpse found in a hollow tree, and who was never identified. Three urban legends have grown up around the case; was Mary a Nazi spy, a prostitute or a gypsy witch? Rachel is desperate to learn the truth, but darker forces are at work. For a rule has been broken, and Mary is in a world where she doesn’t belong…

<![CDATA[Dark Souls Does Horror: A Game That Matters]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/dark-souls-does-horror-a-game-that-mattersBy Roy Bright 
 It was the start of June 2014, and it had been a late band practice… again! 

My rock band, Exit State, were making decent waves in the industry having reached the No1 slot in the most requested video charts on Kerrang TV a short while earlier, and as such, we had increased our tour dates, and that meant practice. Lots and lots of practice. More so than usual.  
So, returning home, weary and hungry, sitting down to a takeaway with a few beers in tow, I fired up my Xbox 360, and, as was customary at the beginning of each month, checked what games were available via the ‘games with gold’, option.  
My eyebrows lifted, my lips pursed, and I nodded my head. ‘Hmmm, Dark Souls,’ I said to myself, ‘it’s about time I gave that a go’. 
Now, I had heard of Dark Souls a couple of years earlier upon its, ‘Prepare To Die’ European release. It had been introduced to me via an article from a well-known gaming website and had immediately piqued my interest with it being a ‘sword and sorcery’ type, semi-open world game. The article had also defined how insanely challenging it was, unsuitable for your average gamer (you ‘gotta love the reverse psychology of the piece) as the steep difficulty curve from the get-go, would put most off. Well, this was right up my street, I thought, and the only reason I hadn’t purchased it upon release was my crazy schedule at the time, with touring, work, and writing my debut novel Judas. Sleep was a commodity I didn’t think I needed back then… oh how wrong I found myself to be a few years down the line. But that’s a tale for another day. 
So, I had started the download, relished my curry and commenced attacking my beers. To my surprise, and relief, it took only a couple of hours to download, even though I didn’t have the best internet at the time, and I decided I was going to play it a bit. I didn’t need much sleep (remember?) I was invincible (I wasn’t). 
Now, ask any Dark Souls veteran, and they will all tell you the same thing; the opening few hours of the game are some of the most incredible you will experience in any of your gaming lifetime. It’s quite hard to describe in fact: the uncertainty, confusion and creeping terror as you edge your way around the starting areas, shield raised, trembling behind it, awaiting the next surprise attack from enemies that feel as though they can just ‘look-at-you’ to death. And, of course, you die. A lot. Over and over. It… is… maddening.  
But something gnaws away. A feeling. That you won’t give up. That you can’t. The game grips you and clamours at your very essence, daring you to attempt the run to the first boss, and its subsequent encounter, just one… more… time. It really is maddening, and, if like me, you have a fierce and overwhelming passion for winning, the game can, and will make short work of your ‘patience-strings’, tugging at them hard, as though they were a fisherman reeling in the largest catch he has ever seen. 
By the time I had fought and screamed my way to the city of Anor Londo, all the while swearing incessantly like the most foul mouthed of sailors, (another of my previous lives thanks to Her Majesty’s Royal Navy) I had already gone through two controllers; lost to the god of ‘bouncing-around-one-corner-of-my-living-room’, hurled in frustration, and I was astute in warning myself, that my wallet could not stand another egregious, rage induced, flinging of pad. I’d been warned. By myself! 
And, oh wow, was Anor Londo gorgeous. My word, did it show off the game. A beautifully rendered city, bathed in the warmth of a stunning sun, and a welcome relief from the poisonous, underground gloom of Blightown, or the claustrophobic terrors of The Catacombs that, god forbid, any newbie such as me, had dared to venture into at the cost of souls.  
Ahh, yes, a nice reminder. I had forgotten to mention the games currency, souls.  
For anyone that doesn’t know or understand the series, souls are the games currency, earned from defeating enemies used to increase your levels and essential for health, endurance, choice of weapons, gear loadout and more if you haven’t yet figured out the games dodge mechanics.  
You become obsessed with souls, with earning and keeping them, in that you may spend them to become stronger and in turn, the game obsesses with relieving you of them, ensuring that once you die, and fail to return to your bloodstain, signified by a green-glowy-glob, they disappear forever, lost to the sacrificial lamb of ‘screw-you-player’. There is nothing quite like dying to some nonsense enemy attack, that you should know better about, then rushing back to retrieve your souls and dying again to some other kind of bullshit, losing over 100,000 souls that you definitely needed in the process.  
So now you can understand why I was on my third controller. Or maybe you can’t! 
You see, the added problem of increasing your levels, and spending your souls in that manner, is that each time you do so, the cost increases and the amount that you require to add another level of anything increases, and as a result, you end up walking around with a bank of souls, desperate not to lose them (and I don’t mind repeating myself) to some bullshit or other. Oh, did I mention that each time you reset an area by resting at a bonfire, the games checkpoint system, all of the enemies you just killed respawn? Did I not mention that? Well… they bloody well do, and it is both irritating and flippin’ amazing in equal measures, especially if you are making a fresh run to a boss. The game is liquid rage. 
Dark Souls, whether you love it or hate it, is a unique experience that nobody can deny, and has so many facets to it I could be here all day explaining them. So, what does this all have to do with horror, and what does this all have to do with me, you might ask? (you probably haven’t though!) 
Well, the game genuinely defined things about me. It became something ‘That Matters’, to me, and to my writing career as the game does a number of things supremely well, better than any other game that has dared to dip their toe in its self-forged, genre. 
Dark Souls does horror. And it does it very, very well. You see, by making you care about the loss of souls, and throwing in punishing enemies and dark, eerie environments, the tension and dread that creates, comes in high volumes, and those are two concepts lost in many modern day horror movies, in my humble opinion. But Dark Souls accomplishes it, as you creep around dark and confined spaces, shield up, an ear cocked, listening for heavy breathing, or the sound of rattling bones, anything to give you an edge or heads-up on the dangers you know lurk around every corner. You can’t run, or at least you can’t as an inexperienced player, as that leads to certain death, stumbling into an enemy or group of them, just waiting to wreck your day. 
No area in the game is more effective at this than the Tomb of the Giants. A pitch black, downward traversing nightmare, filled with giant skeletons ready to smash your face in with enormous swords or launch you back 20ft with dragon-slaying sized arrows, sending you spiralling down to your doom.  And if you are unfortunate enough to attempt the area with no light source, then the descent is tense, unbelievably so, as you feel your way around in the dark, trying not to get murdered or walk off a cliff. Oh yeah, falling to your death is a big thing in this game. In fact, if the enemies are not trying to mutilate you, horribly, horribly, then its damn environment is. I hate Dark Souls… but love it. It’s a terrible relationship. 
The tension is not only confined to creeping around in the dark. If you’ve never played the game you simply cannot appreciate the heart pounding, non-stop action of boss fights. The feeling of, finally, overcoming them while the blood still pulses in your ears, your controller almost slipping out of your sweaty palms. On many occasions at the end of a fight I have flopped back into my armchair, breathing a deep sigh of relief, convinced that never again will I repeat that fight, the stress just isn’t worth it. But you do. Because that’s what Dark Souls does to you. You just can’t help it. 
And so, by the time I came to pen my next novel and second in the Judas series (Judas: The Relic), the game had wormed its way into my psyche to such a degree that it was influencing the way I thought about my story’s enemies, the horror elements, and the sword fights and battles that were to be written for the immortal, sword-wielding anti-hero, Judas Iscariot.  
Having recently completed the third in the series and gone through my second draft rewrites/edits, I had come to realise just how much the Souls games had influenced me while reading through a particularly convoluted fight sequence between Judas and a demon. You see, that’s what the game does, it infiltrates your headspace, affecting how you think and then, when you least expect it, there it is, Dark Souls, slapping its influence badge squarely on your chest with an undead, toothy grin. 
Dark Souls matters to me. It has become an influence on how I tell certain story’s and build certain sequences. And it has definitely had a significant effect on how I build tension within a tale, by creating memories to draw on when the time is right.  
Dark Souls matters. Oh, and I also get murdered a lot in PvP! 
When he’s not chucking console controllers around his living room in gaming, frustration hell, author and screenwriter, Roy Bright spends his time writing novels, with two successful books already under his belt, and a third due for release August 2018.

The ex-Royal Navy Gunner-turned author, began his writing career in 2012 and has not looked back since, with his book series about an immortal, sword-wielding, Judas Iscariot having received much acclaim from fans, and critics alike.

Roy is also proud to be a Patron of the Children's Hospice Arts charity chARTUK whose amazing work aims to enrich the lives of children and young people with life limiting conditions in hospices through the creative, performing and literary Arts, enabling individual expression, creativity and communication.

<![CDATA[SURVIVAL HORROR:  ALL GROWN UP SILENT HILL 2 AND RESIDENT EVIL 3]]>Mon, 26 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/survival-horror-all-grown-up-silent-hill-2-and-resident-evil-3by George Daniel Lea 
By the time a sequel to the ground-breaking original Silent Hill was announced, “Survival Horror” had become well established as a dominant genre within the video games industry; many, many attempting to ape the success and popularity of the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises with extremely limited succes.
The core mechanics of “Survival Horror” became entrenched within video game culture and design: placing the player in a situation of escalating threat with limited ammunition and access to health items, punctuating the more Zelda-esque elements of exploring labyrinthine environments for keys, weapons and items etc with safe rooms, horror set pieces and expository encounters.
Most followed in the same vein as earlier titles in the genre, the vast majority little more than derivative clones of one or both franchises, with little to distinguish them or genuinely horrify their intended audience.
Owing largely to the genre's overnight success and market dominance, players soon became extremely familiar with its tropes and cliches, many of which, ironically, derive from the far older, more traditional media they reference (i.e. in Resident Evil's case, various horror and science fiction b-movies, whereas Silent Hill's influences are somewhat more abstruse and literary in nature). As a result, the games became escalating arms races: what could be done within the constraints of both the genre and comparatively limited technology to reinvent the experience and make the games distinct, novel experiences? Furthermore, the culture and audience for “Survival Horror” were developing as the games themselves were; those of us that were fourteen or fifteen when the original games were released were now approaching our early twenties, meaning that, not only were our appetites somewhat more sophisticated, but there were also far more “real life” pressures and constraints on our time. Therefore, any games that snared our attentions would have to be special indeed.
To add to the sub-genre's woes, in this tumultuous era of video gaming's evolution, it found itself no longer the exclusive font of horror and disturbia in video games:
The likes of Half Life, System Shock, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream...even Doom and its various derivatives were all evidence of an efflorescence of horror within video games, all highly distinct from one another, and appealing to tastes that were perhaps alienated by “Survival Horror's” escalating descent into formula.
Resident Evil 3 and Silent Hill 2 took differing approaches to these problems: whereas Resident Evil 3 attempts to invigorate itself with fresh (un)life by introducing novel technical elements and game dynamics, Silent Hill 2, with its much longer development cycle and shift to the next generation of video games consoles, focuses instead on aesthetics, atmosphere and storytelling, resulting in what is still regarded by many as the high water mark not only for “Survival Horror,” but horror video gaming itself.
Resident Evil 3 was always going to be at somewhat of a disadvantage, being released at the time it was, when so many of the franchise's original fans were simply moving on, growing up, focusing energies instead on building lives for themselves. Also, it was the classically difficult “second sequel” in a horror franchise, which, if one casts an eye over the various horror film franchises it draws inspiration from, is often the point of descent into mediocrity, if not outright disgrace.
Not that Resident Evil 3 is a bad game at all; far from it. In fact, many cite Resi 3 as their favourite instalment in the franchise, and it's not difficult to see why:
Reintroducing fan favourite from the first game, Jill Valentine, the game initially seems to have all of the familiar elements in play: locked camera angles, classic “Survival Horror” tank controls and inventory system...even the environment is familiar, as the game is set during the same time frame as Resident Evil 2, and utilises may of the same environments from that game.
The new dynamic occurs in the form of Nemesis; a derivative of Resident Evil 2's Mr X; a seemingly invulnerable bio-weapon that is dropped into the play environment by agents of the Umbrella corporation with the pre-programmed mission of destroying all members of the S.T.A.R.S team, that have consistently foiled the corporation's agenda in previous instalments.
Nemesis is a highly unusual factor in the game, in that he turns up at various random and pre-determined instances, though, until the player has finished the game through, they will never know where he might or might not occur. The sense of being hunted throughout the game lends proceedings an air of consistent tension that previous titles (arguably) didn't boast, which explodes into lunatic panic whenever he is encountered, often resulting in lethal mistakes.
Another novelty is the almost unheard of element of choice within the narrative; whilst previous games allowed the player some very limited degree of player choice when it came to the order in which certain events occurred, for the most part, they ran on rails, directing the player down pre-determined paths via use of locked doors, blocked passageways etc.
Nemesis introduces this factor through the encounters with the eponymous murder-machine itself; when Nemesis occurs in any environment, the action momentarily slows down, allowing the player to make the choice of either fleeing or fighting, both of which drastically alter the outcome of the game and its narrative (characters live or die depending on what “pattern” of choices you make. Even some key encounters are significantly altered). This not only introduces a new onus for the player, but also enhances the horror with a level of raw panic that arguably wasn't present in previous titles.
Furthermore, being one of the very last significant titles released on the original Playstation, the game is perhaps the most gorgeous looking of any of them, pushing that system to its absolute limits with dynamic and diverse character models, fantastic pre-rendered backgrounds and some truly stunning new monsters to get to grips with.
And it's at this point that I must make an admission that may earn me more than my fair share of ire:
I don't like Resident Evil 3. Of the original titles, it was the first I started playing and never finished. Looking back, this was not primarily due to any failing on behalf of the game itself, though there are one or two that still gripe to this day:
First of all, whilst the concept of Nemesis is excellent, his design is...perhaps my least favourite of the big “end of game” monsters that the series has boasted: the original game's Tyrant, Resident Evil 2's William Birkin and Mr.X all boasted a certain consistency of design and clear influence from works such as John Carpenter's The Thing and H.R. Giger's paintings.
Nemsis doesn't do it for me; the design, if anything, comes off as a little...goofy; a factor that dilutes his presence within the game, especially when you realise that, in most of the encounters with him, he's actually fairly easy to deal with.
Then there's the atmosphere, which, unlike previous Resi titles is somewhat diluted in favour of ladling on action set pieces (a shift in theme and focus that would only escalate as the franchise aged). Resident Evil 1 and had little choice but to utilise raw atmosphere to conceal or divert from their technical short comings: the comparative sophistication of Resident Evil 3 means that a similar degree of subtlety and inspiration isn't present; whilst the environments are gorgeous, far more interactive and dynamic, they simply lack the feeling and gravitas of those in the first two titles, acting more as arenas for action set pieces than means of evoking atmosphere.
But, beyond any technical faults the game might or might not exhibit (and I fully accept that it's the most technially accomplished and consistent of the first three games), my disregard for the title primarily stems from my own status: by that point, I, like so many, had become extremely familiar with the tropes and cliches of “Survival Horror,” such that, they simply lacked purchase any longer. Also, we had started to experience other forms of horror in video games, most notably on my part via the likes of System Shock and its sequel, which, much as I adore the first two Resident Evil games, is leagues and bounds beyond them in terms of sophistication.
Resident Evil 3 marked a cultural transition, for me and many others; the saturation of “Survival Horror,” and the necessary shift in the work that comprised it, if it was to survive:
Silent Hill 2 occurred during the early days of the much loved Playstation 2 system; a platform widely praised for the variety and innovation of the titles it boasted, amongst which Silent Hill 2 has a tendency to top charts.
Whereas Resident Evil's first two sequels felt more like expansions or adaptations of the original game, only altering its core mechanics and structure in the subtlest of ways, Silent Hill 2's longer development cycle meant that it was a quantum leap from the original; the title that firmly cemented its franchise as a heavy hitter not only in horror, but in video gaming as a narrative medium. 
Resi 3 attempted to inject new (and synthetic) life into its parent franchise by introducing a smattering of new gimmicks and technical elements, whereas Silent Hill 2 takes a more mature, considered approach; its mechanics not much removed from those of the original or, indeed, the original Resident Evil, but distinguishing itself in a more subtle, artistic manner: by providing gamers with concepts, imagery and stories the like of which we'd never seen before.
If the original Resident Evil was a bomb shell to our assumptions of what video games were capable of, Silent Hill 2 was the apocalypse that resulted:
With “Survival Horror” firmly established as an entrenched and exceedingly familiar genre by the point of its publication, the game doesn't attempt to blind-side or surprise with technical shifts or innovations. Rather, it has a keen and abiding agenda to disturb and distress, beyond the pulpy, b-movie shocks of the Resident Evil series, attempting to worm its way beneath the player's skin, into our souls, to make us feel somehow soiled for being in contact with it.
The setting and situation are simultaneously similar to those of the original game yet significantly removed: foregoing the original's characters in favour of an entirely new cast, the game follows James Sunderland, as opposed to Harry Mason, who arrives in Silent Hill by intention rather than accident, ostensibly in search of his wife, Mary, with whom he has memories of sharing holidays in the town.
The only problem is that Mary is dead, having succumbed to an undisclosed illness at some point in James's recent past. A cryptic letter that seems to be from Mary adds a further layer of perplexity: is she somehow alive, is James entirely sane?
The game immediately distinguishes itself as being slower paced than the original, building a creeping tension and sense of spiritual dread before unleashing its strangeness and absurdity:
On his way into the town, James encounters characters who talk in a strange, dreaming, almost delirious manner, emphasised by what might be the poor translation from its original Japanese: the entire effect is of being lost in a nightmare, which operates on its own peculiar logic, and in which characters act and react on bizarre, idiosyncratic ways.
James himself is an odd character; gruff, taciturn, dishevelled and clearly in a state of distress, it isn't long before the player starts to get the impression that all isn't well with him; that they may perhaps be in control of a man with more demons than even Silent Hill can reflect.
Whilst the original game hinted at Silent Hill being a psychosomatic environment (i.e. one that responds and reshapes itself in accordance with the psycological states of those that wander there), Silent Hill 2 cements that concept: all of the various creatures and environments players encounter in the game are uniquely disturbing; a far cry from the zombies, science fiction beasties and body-horror monstrosities of the Resident Evil series, these creatures are far more redolent of fevered nightmares, drug-induced hallucinations, the dredgings and unlovely births of a diseased sub-conscious. Each and every one of them reflects some element of either James's own tortured psyche or those of the other characters he encounters, lost in Silent Hill. From the twisted, mutilated -yet distressingly sexualised- nurses that derive from his anxieities over his wife's illness, but also his burgeoning sexual frustration, to the shambling, “straight-jacket” like mounds of flesh that are directionless and constrained, reflecting his sense of hopelessness, his escalating loss of control, every aspect of the game is tailored to resonate with symbolism, meaning that, unlike its counterparts in the Resi series, it functions as far more than a mere game:
Demanding player engagement in a manner that few -if any- horror games of the era did in order to be fully appreciated, it functioned more like an example of surreal art or literature; an animated Francis Bacon or Goya painting, the player -as well as James himself- projecting their own sublimated concerns and distresses upon its imagery, the game worming its way far, far deeper than any superficial responses of survivalist dread or disgust, creating a more intimate and unsettling experience that was largely unheard of amongst video games of the era.
For perhaps the first time, video gamers were treated like adults by their medium of choice; as considered, complex and engaged entities that didn't require immediate or peurile gratification; that could appreciate subtlety, nuance and intimation in the manner of the audiences for literature or cinema.
Whilst many of us didn't consciously acknowledge or appreciate it at the time, the sense of frisson that Silent Hill 2 created through its characters, its complex and ambiguous relationships, its hideous and nhilistic metaphysics, has continued to resonate down the years, such that a casual search of the interwebz will still, still turn up myriad articles and essays attempting to unpick its symbolism, to interpret what certain situations and images might be attempting to relay.
The game is a masterwork of symbolic ambiguity, not spoonfeeding the player with wearisome and debilitating exposition or synthetic interpretations of events, but leaving it almost exclusively in their laps, as their responsibility to interpret. In that, the game acts as a kind of Rorschach ink blott test; like Silent Hill itself, it provides only what you bring to it; the horror deeply personal, intimate and violating, more in the vein of a Clive Barker novel or David Lynch film than a b-movie bit of zombie schlock.
Also, the game is sufficiently sophisticated to make the player character a source of that ambiguity; whereas the vast majority of player avatars in video games are morally absolute, heroic characters, James Sunderland is gradually revealed as being a broken, tormented, not entirely pleasant man, whose actions are what have stirred Silent Hill to its current state of activity: tortured by his feelings and actions towards his ailing wife, he must confront the physical manifestations of those sins, including arguably the most iconic entity in the game's history:
The immortal homonculus, “Pyramid Head.”
Perhaps the most disturbing entity ever introduced into Silent Hill, “Pyramid Head” is a uniquely violent and threatening entity that, far from merely attempting to harm those around it, exhibits proclivities that are far more complex and horrific: when first encountered, it is glimpsed from within a sealed closet (an echo of childhood nightmare scenarios), seeming to graphically rape one of the more feminine monstrosities from the game. When James finally encounters the creature face to face, he finds it slow, ponderous and patient; an immortal butcher that cannot be slowed or stopped.
It isn't until James finally allows himself to confront what he has done, to feel and exorcise his guilt, that “Pyramid Head” commits suicide, allowing him to progress to the final encounter and the ultimate revelation of what actually happened to James's wife.
The consistent symbolism throughout the game, the fact that many enemies don't have to be fought and defeated so much as escaped, exorcised or tackled in a more oblique manner, makes for a vividly different experience from the ailing Resident Evil series; an enduring sense of disturbance that has elevated Silent Hill to such heights that it remains at the top of many gamer's favourite horror games of all time.
For those of us that had grown up with the medium; who had seen the efflorescence of “Survival Horror” in its most recent evolutions, Silent Hill 2 marked the point at which we began to realise that video games were capable of more; that they do not need to be so codified or simplistic in what they provide; that they can be appreciated to the same -if not deeper- degrees than more traditional formats.
The game spurred a sudden explosion in “artistic” horror video games; titles that didn't simply intend to scare or repulse, but to violate the player; to engage them on deeper, more intimate levels, and in ways that would give rise to entirely new forms of horror in generations to come.


<![CDATA[​Jason’s Friend Benny by Eddie Generous]]>Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:00:51 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/jasons-friend-benny-by-eddie-generous
Okay, conspiracy theory time.
The Friday the 13th series has plot holes and inconsistencies. Huge ones. Gaping, monumental, baffling, impossible ones. You can write them off as changes in directors from film to film and that Jason Voorhees is too thin a character to begin with so growth and change is necessary to continue making movies, fine. Plus that’s it’s just a slasher series and who cares so long as the blood keeps gushing. For most.

But, since the beginning, Jason had always been a disabled boy who drowned in Crystal Lake. That’s the one point that seems of complete agreement whenever the, uh, *cough* plot comes into play. However, there’s one issue that sticks out, and I mean more than Jason taking Manhattan or finding himself in space or fighting Freddy or becoming an a fast-acting hell-sludge entity that uses bodies like puppets: at the beginning of Friday the 13th Part 2, Jason leaves the lake and tracks down Alice, the final girl from the first movie, and kills her in her home.
But did he?

If so, how did he?

This isn’t his modus operandi, this isn’t his steez, this isn’t how he rolls.


In the summer of 1958, a bunch of counsellors were making whoopee, like all of them, and poor Jason drowned thanks to their debauchery. Some of them even get murdered back then, despite one boy’s argument “We weren’t doing anything. We were just messing ar—.” That’s the story.

The counsellors are heartless, but not all of them. Especially one young man, say his name is Benny. Benny has a brother with down syndrome and Benny has been a bit glum since his parents sent his brother off to a good doctor offering shock treatment or lobotomies or something (remember, 1958). So Benny finally gets laid while at camp, but the handicapped, deformed boy named Jason drowns and ruins Benny’s mood.

The guilt eats at him for years. Benny grows up, gets married and divorced three times because his wives start talking kids and he’s terrified that the kid will be handicapped and that he’ll fail said kid. No babies, no more marriages.

Benny sees Camp Crystal Lake on the news and it stirs all kinds of emotions. There have been murders, but he’s only thinking of his guilt. He waits one month. Then another. A third. He can’t handle it anymore, drunken and stricken with incredible guilt, Benny tours out to the lake.

A machete slashes down against the roof of his El Camino when he arrives. He screams.

Jason rears back, peeking through the eyehole of a burlap sack mask.

Benny screams again, but stops, as in mid-swing, the magical Jason Voorhees becomes a boy for a moment, that same little boy who has, of no fault of his own, ruined Benny’s life, and had also tried to drown Alice at the end of the first movie.

“Jason!” Benny says.

Jason’s swing stalls and he tilts his head like a confused dog.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

Jason lowers his arm. On the radio inside the El Camino, Alice’s voice comes on the air. A reporter is asking her about what happened and how she’s coping after these past three months. Jason slams his meaty fist against his meaty thigh, thinking of dead mama and the decapitated head he’s got on display because that horrible young woman.

Benny looks at Jason and then the radio and then back to Jason. He knows how to right the wrong of his guilt.

“Let’s fix this together,” Benny says.

It takes some hand gestures and coaxing, and Jason has to grab something from the shack, but eventually Benny gives Jason a ride to town. We all know what happens then.

Spoiler alert, bye bye Alice.
“Are we good?” Benny says to Jason back at Crystal Lake while still in the car.

Jason swings a kitchen knife stolen from Alice’s house, severing skin and creating a long skull fissure, and yanks Benny’s scalp clean off by his shaggy brown hair and then rams fingers into the grey meat of Benny’s brain, absolving Benny of the guilt. Jason gets out of the car and puts mama’s head back where it belongs because it will become integral to the plot later in the movie. What happens to the El Camino is unimportant.

Friday the 13th is my favorite slasher series, but I love most slashers, and I’m fully willing to ignore plot holes in exchange for trope satisfaction. Really, I’m not even mad at the Friday series for breaking that essential plot point in order to kill off a surviving final girl because this is all a ruse to get attention for a new book I wrote alongside Renee Miller and Mark Allan Gunnells titled Splish, Slash, Takin’ a Bloodbath. It’s out March 6th, you can pre-order the eBook or get the paperback on the release date, either way, I promise a slashery good time.
Bio: Eddie Generous is a coauthor of the slasher collection Splish, Slash, Takin' a Bloodbath (written with Mark Allan Gunnells and Renee Miller) as well as of Dead is Dead, but Not Always (available this spring from Hellbound Books), he runs Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine, and he lives on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia with his wife and their cat overlords.


<![CDATA[THE ORGANISM IS GROWING: 30 YEARS OF THE BLOB ‘88 BY NICK LA SALLA]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-organism-is-growing-30-years-of-the-blob-88-by-nick-la-sallaby Nick La Salla

 “There’s nobody in here but us monsters.”
-- Sgt. Jim Bert, The Blob ‘58

It’s been thirty years since The Blob ‘88 was released.  I remember seeing the big movie poster in the supermarket video rental store: those irregular purple waves of Blob, and beneath it the dissolving face and hand of a man who was being slowly broken down and eaten.
But by the time I’d seen the remake, I’d already watched the original -- which, by the way, is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year. 
To appreciate the new ground the remake broke, I’m going to trace the steps the first film made in 1958, when under the watchful eyes of producer Jack H. Harris and director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut made first contact with The Blob, attached as it was to the arm of an unsuspecting hermit in the middle of the woods . . .

“We’re going to find this thing, and we’re going to make people believe us.”
-- Steve Andrews, The Blob ‘58

​McQueen and Corsaut play Steven Andrews and Jane Martin, two silly but headstrong Baby Boomer teenagers whose Greatest Generation parents -- and other authority figures -- are so convinced of their own intellectual superiority that they dismiss Steve and Jane’s eyewitness accounts of The Blob outright.  Therefore, the task falls to Steve and Jane and their friends to save the city and, as the situation worsens, the entire planet by waking up the population to the existence of The Blob in their midst before it’s too late.
There are two police officers, Lieutenant Dave (Earl Rowe) and Sergeant Jim Bert (John Benson), with the former a well meaning and kind man, while the latter hates teens and dismisses their every request for help outright, regardless of merit.  Lieutenant Dave, to his credit, at least investigates when Steve and Jane say they witnessed The Blob murdering the town doctor -- but Sergeant Bert initially refuses to even look into it!
Who cares who the kid says did it, a man has been killed!
What kind of police department is this?
Sergeant Bert does at least have a reason for his distrust of teenagers.  His wife died in a terrible car accident where a teenager was at the wheel of the other vehicle, and ever since he’s hated teens.
I didn’t say it was a great reason, or that it made a ton of sense.  But hey, it’s a reason, so you have to give the writers that.
Lieutenant Dave gives Steve and Jane the benefit of the doubt throughout the film.  It’s through his support -- and finally seeing The Blob in its final, movie theater size incarnation that both police officers and the entire city sign on to the Let’s Beat Some Blob Ass team, and together, old people and young people unite, they finally take care of some big business that would have been a whole lot smaller business if they would have just listened to Steve and Jane when they warned them a half hour into the movie.
But nobody ever listens when kids say a jelly monster eats their doctor, do they?
Speaking of jelly monsters, the special effects look pretty silly in this film, which is to be expected considering the film was budgeted at $120,000 according to Turner Classic Movies.
About those special effects: The Blob itself was a special compound mixed with dyes to give it the red coloring.  For a while there, you could actually buy a bucket of it on EBay.  Extensive use of miniatures provided the scenes toward the end of the film.

“Has everyone in this whole town gone crazy?”
-- Henry Martin, The Blob ‘58

​So at the end of the day, what do you get with The Blob ‘58?  A group of good, clean American kids lead their well meaning but condescending older generation to save the world from an extraterrestrial threat.  It’s pretty silly stuff when you think about it.
Suzanne J. Murdico wrote in her book, Meet The Blob, that The Blob was intended to be a metaphor for the growing threat of communism at the time, but I’m not convinced of that.  Just because a film was released in the ‘50s does not mean it was about communism -- that theme was definitely present in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, no argument from me.  But The Blob strikes me much more of a cypher -- it as a creature means nothing.  It’s faceless, it has no way to express itself.  You can assign any meaning you want to it and bend the rest of the film to make your argument work. 
If any purposeful theme is to be derived from The Blob ‘58, it’s much more of a generational commentary.  It’s to do with how the Baby Boomer generation related to the Greatest Generation, and perhaps a growing resentment at the lack of respect there.  After all, the teens do the most in the film.  Their lives are on the line, they get no thanks for it and everybody considers them idiots.  And who dies in the film?  Adults who should know better.  The teens are hip to the problem.
But in the end, their parents and the Powers That Be are good and just, and they listen because that’s what good people do.  Steve and Jane are good people too, and so are their parents and so are Lieutenant Dave and Sergeant Burt.
The Blob ‘58 is silly and at times a bit saccharine, and the film is so dated that it takes a little imagination to get into, but The Blob itself is a terrifying monster.  There are still a few hair raising moments tucked away in its run time.  

“It’s a lie.  All of it.”
-- Brian Flagg, The Blob ‘88

​So we’ve covered the original, and that leads us to the spectacular Chuck Russell helmed 1988 remake starring Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillon.  Made for an estimated $19 million according to IMDB, it’s no surprise that it’s light years beyond the original in terms of production quality.
The Blob ‘88 opens in small town middle America and feels faithful to the original in that it’s still about teen hijinx, albeit transferred to the 1980’s, so it’s injected with a healthy dollop of sex comedy.  Smith plays Meg Penny, and Paul (Donovan Leitch, Jr.), the high school quarterback, takes Penny out for their first date into the country to make out.  This also happens to be the same stretch where Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) pops wheelies.  Flagg’s a motorcycle drivin’, hard livin’ high school outcast.
Unfortunately for all of them, a lonely hermit just discovered his new friend -- The Blob -- who wastes no time getting acquainted with the hermit’s hand and then his whole arm.  Flagg spooks the already shocked hermit into the road, where Paul hits him with his car.  The three teens, suddenly united in purpose, drive the hermit to the hospital.
Instead of being able to help, the nurses and doctor make notes of the hermit’s condition, purse their lips and look pensive, and leave the teens to watch as his condition deteriorates. 
Paul sees The Blob eat through the hermit’s lower body and surge up the old man’s throat in a truly stomach churning shot.  He gets the doctor, but when they return, the body’s gone.  While the doctor stands there incompetently, Paul runs into an adjoining office to call for help.  The Blob, now man sized, drops from the ceiling and engulfs him.
This is the moment that defines the film for many viewers, myself included.  Paul’s demise is one of the most horrifying scenes I have ever seen committed to celluloid.  Director Chuck Russell expertly shows everything: Paul’s smothered and held in place by The Blob’s gummy body, and every orifice -- his nose, his mouth, probably even his eyes, every part of him is assaulted by The Blob’s acidic body which dissolves and eats him in what must be the most agonizing death imaginable.  

“What we do here will affect the balance of world power.  Of course there are lives at stake -- whole nations, in fact.  And that's far more important than a handful of people in this small town.”

-- Dr. Meddows, The Blob ‘88

​The original film felt basically harmless -- even toward the end, where death for Steve and Jane seemed certain.  They never addressed the true terror of what a creature like The Blob was capable of -- well, this remake addresses this unapologetically, and plunges us into full on body horror territory.  In this regard, it’s not dissimilar to, say, David Cronenberg’s own remake of The Fly
The Blob ‘88 shows the body being broken down in an extremely graphic manner, to the point where it is uncomfortable to watch.  It’s not just bloody or gory.  It makes you feel how insignificant and how tenuous a hold our joints, muscles and skin really have over us, and how easily it can all be torn asunder.  The Blob is far more powerful than our anatomies, and with every kill, it grows in power and size.  It sprouts tentacles to seize its prey and manipulate its environment.   
That’s arguably the biggest improvement of this film over the original: the special effects here are really and truly special, and it took a large crew -- called The Blob Shop -- to pull it off right.  The creature and puppetry effects are spectacular and hold up with the best of any film, even today.

“The organism is growing at a geometric rate. By all accounts, it's at least a thousand times its original mass.”
-- Jennings, The Blob ‘88

For insight into the unique demands of this film, I talked to two special effects wizards behind The Blob ‘88.  Blob Movement Designer and Effects Crewmember Trey Stokes has since moved on to work on Starship Troopers, Team America, The Polar Express and directed the George Lucas approved Star Wars homage Pink Five.
But in his early career, he had a whole lot of fun working on The Blob ‘88.  The Blob, he said, was mostly sheets of silk bags filled with goo called “Blob quilts”.  He mentioned to me that director Chuck Russell gave his team three “Blob Commandments”: The Blob should always be aggressive, muscular and busy.
“‘Busy’ was the minimum requirement -- if any piece of The Blob wasn’t moving, it immediately looked like a lifeless bag of goo again.  ‘Muscular’ we achieved via tricks like twisting several Blob quilts together, dragging them apart, and then running the shot backward so it looked like The Blob was pulling itself together.
“‘Aggressive’ . . . a predator’s intent is shown by what it’s looking at, but The Blob couldn’t ‘look’ at anything in a conventional way.  It helped that by this point we had rough cuts of scenes to look at, so we knew what The Blob was supposed to be doing in each shot.  It was usually a case of just rehearsing different moves until we had something that worked.”
Jeff Farley has become indispensable to horror and sci-fi since being a Creature Effects Crewmember of The Blob ‘88.  He’s worked on Pet Sematary, Demolition Man, and Wolf, in addition to numerous other genre efforts.  When he wrote me about The Blob ‘88, he explained a lot about how those tentacled shots were performed.
“Pretty much every type of effect was used to create the sentient look of the creature.  [Blob quilts] were further enhanced with veins and other painted details.  Quite a few people would be underneath undulating the sheet and performing choreographed movements.  The tentacles were sometimes mechanical and other times, just wiggled by a crew member in front of the camera.  It would take a whole day to get just a handful of shots if we were lucky as numerous takes were common.”
Beyond the intense demand for complicated special effects -- which would extend to miniatures and even groundbreaking early green screen work, there’s an interesting additional subtext to this film, which was noticeably absent from the original.  It’s that delightful cynicism of the late ‘80s, and it’s here in full force.
No longer are the authority figures well meaning.  Now, they are downright antagonistic.  The police department immediately zeroes in on Flagg as Paul’s murderer, even though the victim’s body is gone except for his steaming severed arm.  How’d some teenager melt off limbs and escape the hospital without anyone noticing, apparently taking the body with him on his motorcycle?
Very imaginative police work.

“I never thought I'd go out of my way to find a cop.”
-- Brian Flagg, The Blob ‘88

​This version of The Blob isn’t even extraterrestrial -- it is a bioweapon created by a government agency that has zero concern for the people it is supposedly protecting.  There’s even a random religious subplot thrown in for the promise of a sequel that never came.
In other words, every trusted institution is, at best, not to be trusted -- and, more often, out for the blood of the citizenry.  Similar to the original film, the only people who can act to stop The Blob are the teens.

Gone, however, is the love story.  Gone are the teams of teenagers working together to save the world -- now it’s just a cheerleader and an outcast, coming together and solving the world’s problems. 

Gone are the well meaning parents.  Gone is any semblance of the previous generation coming to their senses. 
There’s no assistance, no mediation between the teens and the adults, no coordinating efforts like in the original film. 
The Blob ‘88 seems to be saying that the teens of Generation X have no hope of being accepted as adults by the narcissism of the Baby Boomer generation, and that if they ever want to take the reins of this world, so to speak, it will take one hell of a battle.

“You know, plenty of people in their right minds thought they saw stuff like flying saucers.  The light was just right in the angle of the imagination.  And, oh boy, if that's what this is, this is just an ordinary night and you and I are going to go home to sleep, and tomorrow, the sun will shine just like yesterday.  Good old yesterday.”
-- Steve Andrews, The Blob ‘58

The Blob ‘88 is in many ways the complete opposite film to the 1958 original, but it moved the story into darker, more graphic territory that spoke to the general unrest and cynicism of the times.  It did exactly what the original did -- it held up a mirror to the teens of the moment, and let them see what they were thinking, acted out on the silver screen.
So . . . it’s been 60 years since The Blob ‘58, and 30 years since The Blob ‘88.  It would seem inevitable that another remake should be on the way . . . right?
Oddly enough, yes.  Glad you asked.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson (I’m not joking), The Blob ‘19 is on its way courtesy of Arclight Films, directed by Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The General’s Daughter), and he’s promised an immersive experience with the latest and greatest in special effects including CGI -- so make of that what you will.  The story is slightly different, apparently skewing away from the teen market -- coal miners unearth it and then town residents work together to defeat it.
Since the previous two movies have been about the difficulties of one generation relating to the next -- “changing of the guard” films, in a way -- I hope they address that in any subsequent film they do make.  It’d be a shame not to shine a light for this generation as well, and continue the films’ celebration of youth.
In any case, I say thank goodness for a new film.  It’s been too long since we’ve been able to see The Blob wreak havoc on the big screen, and I personally have never seen any of them theatrically.  I’m sure there will be plenty of haters who will condemn the film before it’s even filming, but just remember that it can’t be any worse than 1972’s Beware! The Blob -- which you’ll notice I’m not including as Blob canon for reasons which will become obvious if you choose to sit through it -- and this new film may even become a classic in time. 
We’ll have to wait and see.
Until then, heed what a wise man with a smooth voice once said over a particularly memorable title card:
“POP!  Beware of the Blob . . . “


<![CDATA[THE YA STOKER AWARD:A SCHOOL LIBRARIAN DISSECTS THE SHORT-LIST]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 06:57:02 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/features/the-ya-stoker-awarda-school-librarian-dissects-the-short-listBy Tony Jones 
It’s time for our annual review of the books featured on the short-list for the YA Bram Stoker Award. Last year’s choices were dull and there was little for teenagers to get excited or scared about. Unfortunately, this year we get another dose of the same, except for one blood-filled, unsettlingly creepy title which keeps the YA horror flag flying high. Many school librarians keep a close eye on prize lists, so it is very disappointing to see four middle-of-the-road novels featuring on such a prestigious short-list which are not the best advert for the YA genre.
If the HWA wish to increase the profile of this award within the wider YA community, they need to feature much stronger titles and improve the quality of their judging to select the best from the international horror YA world, not just the USA. Apart from the Amy Lukavics novel “The Ravenous” the other four featured are not going to turn the heads of school librarians, parents, interested book professionally and most importantly, teenagers. For the most part they are perfectly acceptable, but standard-bearers for YA horror? Not a chance.
If you do want a standard-bearer or poster-girl for YA horror then look no further than Amy Lukavics, this lady is the real deal, with three terrific horror novels under her belt, the HWA should be begging the Queen of YA horror to come to their party. I’m already getting excited about her fourth novel “Nightingale” coming later in 2018 which the early whispers say crosses Sylvia Plath with David Lynch!  More on Amy later…
Last year Ginger Nuts of Horror featured an ‘alternative’ Stoker list of titles we loved which didn’t feature on (yet another) all-American horror short-list. My personal expertise in lovingly compiling these collections is based in working 24 years as a secondary school librarian as a YA specialist and as a life-long horror enthusiast. We’re delighted that three of the books we previously championed have since been picked up and recommended by major reading agencies. “The Nest” by Kenneth Oppel was given away free to thousands of children in British schools and was hailed as a future classic and both “The Call” by Peadar O’Guilin and “The Wrong Train” by Jeremy de Quidt are currently featured on the influential Book Trust website used by schools all over the country. And what of the novel that won the ‘Official’ Stoker last year? It has undoubtedly disappeared into deserved oblivion and obscurity. Does anyone even remember what it was?  And apart from me did anybody even read it? In a couple of weeks, Ginger Nuts of Horror will be publishing our latest ‘alternative’ list and, be rest assured, it will be top loaded with books teenagers might genuinely actually want to read. And are currently reading and enjoying in my own school library.
Now for our reviews of the five nominated books: (and if any take your fancy click on the rating or the cover image to purchase via our universal Amazon purchasing links)

Amy Lukavics: The Ravenous

 Amy Lukavics has written the stand-out novel of the five on the short-list which is strong enough to stand tall with the best YA horror has to offer. This is her first nomination, however, both her previous novels “Daughter Unto Devils” and “The Women in the Walls” were also tremendous and the HWA missed a trick by ignoring her previously. Ginger Nuts of Horror has been a fan of Amy for some time and this book deserves to win the YA Stoker. We love this book. We dug the blood, the bone-crunching, the family dynamics, the weirdness of it all.
This terrific horror story has complex family issues beating at its dark heart, much more than twitching goes on beyond the curtains in this broken household. I don’t think there is any better YA writer anywhere in cross-pollinating the issues of everyday life, damaged teenagers with that of the supernatural than Lukavics. It’s also the only book on the short-list which also has a healthy amount of gore, as the eldest sister makes good use of the family hammer, as her unhealthy interest in serial-killers develops and he body-count increases. The Stoker is a horror prize after all, and the gore value on offer here sails pretty close to adult horror, teens will love it.
The Ravenous” is told from the point of view of Mona, the middle of five teenage sisters. Getting into the head of a teenager, making it convincing, is incredibly hard to do but the author totally nails the isolation felt by the girl. The eldest of the sisters acts as a surrogate parent to the others, as their mother is an alcoholic. However, tragedy strikes when their mother causes a drunken argument and the youngest falls into the deep basement, tumbling to the bottom and dying instantly after breaking her neck. This was one of many brutal sequences, the family staring at their broken sibling, her head twisted at a wrong angle.  In her madness, the mother claims she can “Bring Rose back” and then disappears for a few days with the body. When she returns she is not alone and Rose is alive again. But at what cost? Brutal until the unforgiving end.
This exceptional exploration of teenage isolation and loss works equally well as a horror novel and as a dark twisted family drama. Nobody does this sort of stuff better than Amy Lukavics.


Kim Liggett: The Last Harvest

The Last Harvest” was a decent page-turner which was a slight step-up in quality from the old Point Horror novels many of us will have read in our youth, one other review name-checked it as “Rosemary’s Baby crossed with Friday Night Lights” which I found rather amusing. Clay Tate is the retired high-school star quarter-back for his small town in Oklahoma, not having played football for a year after the mysterious death of his father. Living in a very Christian town Clay struggles to cope with the whispers about the death of his father and the powerful local organisation the Preservation Society which his dad had runs in with after accusing them of being devil worshippers. Along the way we have some teen romance, family drama and of course the Preservation Society has its own secret agenda driving the book.
It’s fun, fast paced stuff which might engage with 12-14-year olds, but ultimately it was shallow, and I saw the ‘twist’ ending coming a mile away. It does have some decent emotional pulls which teen readers will tap into and it jogs along at a jolly speed. It’s also going to remind you of lots of other books and films. One wonders how devil worship will sit within some of the southern US states and I’m guessing many school libraries will be giving this book a wide berth!  Fair play to the author for taking a stab at a touchy subject. Overall, it’s a solid attempt at spinning a countryside devil-worship yarn in small town America which both boys and girls might get a kick out of. I’m pretty sure a twelve year old version of me would have enjoyed this.


Sarah Porter: When I Cast Your Shadow

 When I Cast You Shadow” initially had a lot going for it, with a cleverly written tale which ran out of steam. Initially it is narrated by Ruby and Everett, twins, struggling to recover from the death of their older brother who died of a drug overdose. Other points of view are gradually added as the novel progresses. Ruby has taken the death particularly badly, but Everett is looking out for her and will do anything to protect her. Here’s where things get a bit confusing, brother Dashiell is most definitely two months dead, but his ghost still lingers around, as he is on the run from another supernatural spirit. His siblings can also feel him close, particularly Ruby, he can also temporarily possess the living for short periods, initially Ruby by entering their bodies. In one sequence he jumps into a body and has sex with his ex-girlfriend. The body jumping becomes the focus of the plot but becomes tiresome.
As the dead brother continues to jump into bodies the narration got over complex and perhaps over ambitious. As it dragged on I found many of the characters irritating, often making dumb decisions and it lacked any real sense of threat which reduced tension. The teenagers also came across way older than their sixteen years and the ghost himself, Dashiell, was a real unlikable arsehole. In parts it read as a dreamy kind of novel which tackled a lot of themes impacting teenagers, from drugs, suicide, family problems, but in the end the characters were bland. Also, the glimpses we had of death (the ‘borderlands’), or what exists beyond life, was undercooked and could have been explored more. The book has lots of very pretty sentences, but was just too long, and lacked any real sense of horror. It’s not paranormal romance, but was probably more aimed at a female audience, I couldn’t see a boy touching it. I did wonder who it was aimed at?  Did it have anything close to the hammer scene in the Lukavics novel? No is the simple answer.


Tom Leveen: Hell World

 Hell World” bills itself as an apocalyptic novel, but as apocalypses go this is a pretty dull one. Abby Booth is trying to come to terms with the disappearance and death of her mother five years earlier. She was a co-presenter on a TV show that investigates hauntings and vanished without trace in a deep unexplored cave in Arizona. In the years since the disappearance her father has sunk into a deep depression, and seeking closure she and her friends go to visit the cave seeking answers after discovering clues that indicate they haven’t been told the full story. The novel then splits into two-time sequences ‘now’ and ‘then’ which were both samey and dealt with the goings on in the cave and what they find there. The problem is the creatures they find there are very bland and when they start rampaging around I struggled to keep interested. As the discovery of hell beasts go, this was pedestrian.
The novel also lacked a proper ending, a curse in YA fiction, leaving everything open for a book two I certainly will not be reading. It has snappy enough dialogue, but it really is tame stuff aimed at kids aged around 12-13, any older would probably find it unchallenging. Ultimately, for a horror novel it lacked any real scares or fright and although the connections with Noah’s Arc and that period was interesting enough it failed to ignite. In an apocalypse you fight for your life, these kids sleepwalked through it.  If the HWA believe a novel as bland as this worthy of winning a Stoker, then the YA section really should be put out to grass and discontinued.


Gillian French: The Door to January

 I seriously struggled to get into and ultimately finish Gillian French’s paranormal thriller “The Door to January” and although two genres were blended together well enough I found myself drifting off whenever central character Natalie had one of her uninvolving dreams. Natalie and her cousin have returned to their old town after a few years away as she feels the nightmares she is plagued by are connected to a violent incident which led her to leaving the town in the first place. 
Along the way she stumbles upon another mystery involving an abandoned house which becomes central to the plot. Although there was nothing wrong with the writing I found the book pedestrian and the different fonts to signify the varying time sequences, including the murders in the 1940s, particularly irritating.  The mysteries come together well enough, and the characters develop, but once again I wondered who exactly this book was aimed at? I just cannot see teenagers engaging with it at all as there was little to tap into and I think it will struggle to find both a niche and an audience. There wasn’t much on offer here except for some paranormal suspense, which again came across as another book aimed at a female audience.  And where was the horror? I must have missed it.
I’m not going to bother going into the voting procedures of the HWA, but as one of the few people likely to have read all five books, there is only one winner, Amy Lukavics with her grisly tale of a family in crisis, with cannibalism, dodgy soup, killer teenagers and life after death. Proper horror. Bring it on.
The YA Stoker Award deserves a real bone-cruncher as its winner and the Ginger Nuts of Horror hope Amy picks up the big one. And what of my own school library? “The Ravenous” is already featured on my recommended list, “The Last Harvest” might find an audience, but I would struggle to know who to recommend the other three books to and recommending books is a crucial part of my job.
Tony Jones