WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – MARCH 22, 2017

Book – Lord of the Flies (1954)
Author – William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author William Golding. The book’s premise focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their attempt to govern themselves, with disastrous results.

In the midst of a war-time evacuation, a British aeroplane crashes on or near an isolated island in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors are boys in their middle childhood or preadolescence. Two boys—the fair-haired Ralph and an overweight, bespectacled boy nicknamed “Piggy”—find a conch, which Ralph uses as a horn to congregate all the survivors to one area. Due largely to the fact that Ralph appears responsible for bringing all the survivors together, he immediately commands some authority over the other boys and is quickly elected their “chief”, but he does not receive the votes of the members of a boys’ choir, led by the red-headed Jack Merridew. Ralph establishes three primary policies: to have fun, survive, and to constantly maintain a smoke signal that could alert passing ships to their presence on the island and thus rescue them. The boys create a form of democracy by declaring that whoever holds the conch shall also be able to speak at their formal gatherings and receive the attentive silence of the larger group.

Jack organises his choir into a hunting party responsible for discovering a food source. Ralph, Jack, and a quiet, dreamy boy named Simon soon form a loose triumvirate of leaders with Ralph as the ultimate authority. Though he is Ralph’s only real confidant, Piggy is quickly made into an outcast by his fellow “biguns” (older boys) and becomes an unwilling source of laughs for the other children while being hated by Jack. Simon, in addition to supervising the project of constructing shelters, feels an instinctive need to protect the “littluns” (younger boys).

The semblance of order quickly deteriorates as the majority of the boys turn idle; they give little aid in building shelters, spend their time having fun and begin to develop paranoias about the island. The central paranoia refers to a supposed monster they call the “beast”, which they all slowly begin to believe exists on the island. Ralph insists that no such beast exists, but Jack, who has started a power struggle with Ralph, gains a level of control over the group by boldly promising to kill the creature. At one point, Jack summons all of his hunters to hunt down a wild pig, drawing away those assigned to maintain the signal fire. A ship travels by the island, but without the boys’ smoke signal to alert the ship’s crew, the vessel continues without stopping. Ralph angrily confronts Jack about his failure to maintain the signal; in frustration Jack assaults Piggy, breaking his glasses. The boys subsequently enjoy their first feast. Angered by the failure of the boys to attract potential rescuers, Ralph considers relinquishing his position as leader, but is convinced not to do so by Piggy, who both understands Ralph’s importance, and deeply fears what will become of him should Jack take total control.

One night, an aerial battle occurs near the island while the boys sleep, during which a fighter pilot ejects from his plane and dies during the descent. His body drifts down to the island in his parachute; both get tangled in a tree near the top of the mountain. Later on, while Jack continues to scheme against Ralph, twins Sam and Eric, now assigned to the maintenance of the signal fire, see the corpse of the fighter pilot and his parachute in the dark. Mistaking the corpse for the beast, they run to the cluster of shelters that Ralph and Simon have erected to warn the others. This unexpected meeting again raises tensions between Jack and Ralph. Shortly thereafter, Jack decides to lead a party to the other side of the island, where a mountain of stones, later called Castle Rock, forms a place where he claims the beast resides. Only Ralph and a quiet suspicious boy, Jack’s closest supporter Roger, agree to go; Ralph turns back shortly before the other two boys but eventually all three see the parachutist whose head rises via the wind; they then flee, now believing the beast is truly real. When they arrive at the shelters, Jack calls an assembly and tries to turn the others against Ralph, asking for them to remove him from his position. Receiving no support, Jack storms off alone to form his own tribe. Roger immediately sneaks off to join Jack, and slowly an increasing amount of older boys abandon Ralph to join Jack’s tribe. Jack’s tribe continues to lure recruits in from the main group by promising feasts of cooked pig. The members begin to paint their faces and enact bizarre rites, including sacrifices to the beast.

Simon, who faints frequently and is likely an epileptic, has a secret hide-away where he goes to be alone. One day while he is there, Jack and his followers erect a faux sacrifice to the beast near-by: a pig’s head, mounted on a sharpened stick, and soon swarming with scavenging flies. Simon conducts an imaginary dialogue with the head, which he dubs the “Lord of the Flies”. The head mocks Simon’s notion that the beast is a real entity, “something you could hunt and kill”, and reveals the truth: they, the boys, are the beast; it is inside them all. The Lord of the Flies also warns Simon that he is in danger, because he represents the soul of man, and predicts that the others will kill him. Simon climbs the mountain alone and discovers that the beast is only a dead parachutist trapped by rocks being moved by the wind. Rushing down to tell the others, Simon is seen by the boys who are engaged in a ritual dance. The frenzied boys mistake Simon for the beast, attack him, and beat him to death.

Jack and his rebel band decide that the real symbol of power on the island is not the conch, but Piggy’s glasses—the only means the boys have of starting a fire. They raid Ralph’s camp, confiscate the glasses, and return to their abode on Castle Rock. Ralph, now deserted by most of his supporters, journeys to Castle Rock to confront Jack and secure the glasses. Taking the conch and accompanied only by Piggy, Sam, and Eric, Ralph finds the tribe and demands that they return the valuable object. Confirming their total rejection of Ralph’s authority, the tribe captures and binds the twins under Jack’s command. Ralph and Jack engage in a fight which neither wins before Piggy tries once more to address the tribe. Any sense of order or safety is permanently eroded when Roger, now sadistic, deliberately drops a boulder from his vantage point above, brutally killing Piggy and shattering the conch. Ralph manages to escape, but Sam and Eric are tortured by Roger until they agree to join Jack’s tribe.

Ralph secretly confronts Sam and Eric who warn him that Jack and Roger hate him and that Roger has sharpened a stick at both ends, implying the tribe intends to hunt him like a pig and behead him. The following morning, Jack orders his tribe to begin a hunt for Ralph. Jack’s savages set fire to the forest while Ralph desperately weighs his options for survival. Following a long chase, most of the island is consumed in flames. With the hunters closely behind him, Ralph trips and falls. He looks up at a uniformed adult – a naval officer whose party has landed from a passing war-ship to investigate the fire. Ralph bursts into tears over the death of Piggy and the “end of innocence”. Jack and the other children, filthy and unkempt, also revert to their true ages and erupt into sobs. The officer expresses his disappointment at seeing British boys exhibiting such feral, warlike behaviour before turning to stare awkwardly at his own war-ship.

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – MARCH 15, 2017

Book – Rosemary’s Baby (1967)
Author – Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby is a 1967 best-selling horror novel by Ira Levin, his second published book. It sold over 4 million copies, “making it the top bestselling horror novel of the 1960s.”  The commercial success of the novel helped launch a “horror boom”, where horror fiction would achieve enormous commercial success.

The book centers on Rosemary Woodhouse, a young woman who has just moved into the Bramford, an old Gothic Revival style New York City apartment building with her husband, Guy, a struggling actor. The pair is warned that the Bramford has a disturbing history involving witchcraft and murder, but they choose to overlook this. Rosemary has wanted children for some time, but Guy wants to wait until he is more established.

Rosemary and Guy are quickly welcomed to the Bramford by neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet, an eccentric elderly couple. Rosemary finds them meddlesome and absurd, but Guy begins paying them frequent visits.

After a theatrical rival suddenly goes blind, Guy is given an important part in a stage play. Immediately afterward, Guy unexpectedly agrees with Rosemary that it is time to conceive their first child.

Guy’s performance in the stage play brings him favorable notice and he is subsequently cast in other, increasingly important roles; he soon begins to talk about a career in Hollywood.

After receiving a warning from a friend, who also becomes mysteriously ill, Rosemary discovers that her neighbors are the leaders of a Satanic coven, and she suspects they intend to steal her child and use it as a sacrifice to the Devil. Despite her growing conviction, she is unable to convince anyone else and soon becomes certain that there is no one actually on her side, least of all her own husband. Ultimately, Rosemary finds that she is wrong about the coven’s reason for wanting the baby — the baby that she delivers is the Antichrist, and Guy is not actually the father. Satan is.

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – MARCH 8, 2017

Book – “The Great God Pan” (1894)
Author – Arthur Machen

“The Great God Pan” is a novella by Welsh writer Arthur Machen. A version of the story was published in the magazine The Whirlwind in 1890, and Machen revised and extended it for its book publication (together with another story, “The Inmost Light”) in 1894. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. Machen’s story was only one of many at the time to focus on the Greek God Pan as a useful symbol for the power of nature and paganism. The title was possibly inspired by the poem “A Musical Instrument” published in 1862 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in which the first line of every stanza ends “… the great god Pan.”

Clarke agrees, somewhat unwillingly, to bear witness to a strange experiment performed by his friend, Dr. Raymond. The ultimate goal of the doctor is to open the mind of man so that he may experience the spiritual world, an experience he calls “seeing the great god Pan”. He performs the experiment, which involves minor brain surgery, on a young woman named Mary. She awakens from the operation awed and terrified but quickly becomes “a hopeless idiot”.

Years later, Clarke learns of a beautiful but sinister girl named Helen Vaughan, who is reported to have caused a series of mysterious happenings in her town. She spends much of her time in the woods near her house, where a young boy stumbles across her talking to a strange man one day; the boy becomes hysterical and later, after seeing a Roman statue of a satyr’s head, becomes permanently feeble-minded. Helen also befriends a neighbour girl, Rachel, whom she leads several times into the woods. On one occasion Rachel returns home distraught; afterward, she returns to the woods and disappears forever.

Years later, Villiers happens across his old friend Herbert, who has become a vagrant since they last met. When asked how he has fallen so low, Herbert replies that he has been “corrupted body and soul” by his wife, who is later revealed to be Helen. Soon after, Herbert is found dead.

Helen disappears for some time, supposedly taking part in disturbing orgies somewhere in the Americas. She eventually returns to London under the pseudonym Mrs. Beaumont, her appearance followed by a series of suicides. Villiers and Clarke, each learning of Mrs. Beaumont’s true identity, band together and confront Helen in her house. They persuade her to hang herself, and Helen has a very abnormal death, transforming between human and beast before finally dying.

It is finally revealed that Helen is the child of Mary and the great god Pan, who was let in when Dr. Raymond opened her mind up to him.

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – MARCH 1, 2017

Book – The Girl Next Door (1988)
Author – Jack Ketchum

The story neighborhood children by allowing them to come freely into her home, play as rough as they wish, and even drink an occasional beer with her.

Ruth’s nieces then enter the picture; Meg, a teen girl for whom David develops feelings and Susan, a young girl who was severely injured in a car accident and still experiences complications from it. Both girls come to live with their aunt after the sudden death of their parents. All first when they arrive all seems well. However, Ruth’s mental state has been deteriorating over time, and the burden of having two more children to care for seems to accelerate her descent into madness.

Ruth begins verbally abusing Meg, calling her a slut. After an incident where Meg hits Ralphie when he touches her breast, Ruth beats Susan for “being in canivance” with Meg. When Meg tries to tell a police officer about the abuse, Ruth locks her in their bomb shelter and allows her boys to strip her, then leaves her there, bound and gagged all night. She starves her and even allows the other children to burn, beat her and even urinate in Meg’s face over the course of months, making them feel that because they have the permission of an adult, their actions are okay and will not be punished.

David soon realizes that he must do something before time runs out and he loses the first girl he has ever loved. However, despite his efforts, his plan to rescue Meg is foiled when Meg tries to bring her sister Susan with her and Ruth catches them trying to leave. As punishment, Ruth allows her son Donny to rape Meg. Willie also wants to rape her, but Ruth refuses to let him, saying it is incest for him to do so after his brother. Ruth then carves the words “I FUCK / FUCK ME” into Meg’s stomach, saying she is doing it so no man will ever want Meg. Ruth then takes it a step further and decides she will end all sexual desire on Meg’s part and gives her a clitorectomy.

In the meantime, David decides to create a plan to get Meg, Susan, and himself out of the house alive. After one final act of torture, Meg dies, shortly after the police arrive. As David and Ruth are being led upstairs, David sees Ruth wearing Meg’s mother’s wedding band. Remembering a promise to get it back to Meg, he vengefully pushes Ruth down the stairs, killing her. The officer with David realizes he did this intentionally, but knowing how evil Ruth was the officer claims that the fall was accidental, and David is never charged with Ruth’s death. As David grows up he continually tracks the whereabouts of the other children who helped to torture Meg, discovering that they either end up dying young as a result of reckless lifestyles or go on to lead lives blighted by poverty and crime. After reading of a brutal crime spree perpetuated by one of the now grown children of Ruth, David is left to wonder what has become of the children he was unable to track.

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – FEBRUARY 22, 2017

Book – Swan Song (1987)
Author – Robert McCammon

The President of the United States and his advisors are discussing how the Soviet Union is building up its forces for a nuclear strike. The relationship between the Soviet and American governments has deteriorated badly. Several months earlier, the War in Afghanistan ended with the Soviets launching mustard gas and other nerve agents at Kabul. India and Pakistan destroy each other in a nuclear war, Iran launches Soviet-supplied nuclear weapons at Iraq, and Soviet and American ships play cat and mouse in the Atlantic Ocean. With Soviet submarines closing on the east and west coasts, the President caves to pressure from his advisors and orders hunter-killer task forces to engage the vessels while American submarines blockade the Soviet Union.

In New York City, Sister Creep, a homeless woman who suffered a mental breakdown after accidentally causing the death of her daughter in a drunk-driving incident, wanders the city. While she takes shelter in a subway tunnel for the night, the bombs begin to fall. She narrowly escapes with her life.

Aboard the Airborne Command Post, the President is wracked with guilt over his role in the carnage. It is revealed that the war began when an American submarine commander launched a nuclear-armed cruise missile against Soviet submarines, and the Soviets have now launched a full-scale nuclear attack against the United States. Convinced that America as he knows it is dead and gone, the President prepares to input a series of codes into a computer for the activation of an unknown device known only as ‘Talons’. Seconds before the activation process can be completed, a burning Greyhound bus, sent flying by the shock waves of the nuclear blasts below, smashes into the aircraft, causing an explosion that sends it hurtling towards the ground.

A wrestler named Josh Hutchins, popularly dubbed “Black Frankenstein”, is traveling to a match in Garden City, Kansas, when his vehicle breaks down at a gas station called PawPaw’s. Josh meets a nine-year-old girl named Sue Wanda (Swan) and her mother. Swan’s mother ran away with Swan when her boyfriend used the family’s money to buy beer. The cornfields around the station catch fire as missiles are launched from hidden silos nearby, and Josh realizes that a war has begun. PawPaw is blinded by the flash from a detonating nuclear weapon, and the four of them take shelter in the store’s basement.

Roland Croninger is a thirteen-year-old boy who likes to call himself a “King’s Knight”, a role in a game that he invented himself. His parents take him to Blue Dome Mountain in Idaho, a survivalist fallout shelter. Colonel James “Jimbo” Macklin, meanwhile, a Vietnam War veteran, controls the Blue Dome. When the attack begins, an off-course Minuteman missile detonates nearby, and the blast severely damages Blue Dome Mountain. Many people are killed, and Macklin falls into a deep hole. While trapped, he is reminded of his experiences in Vietnam.

In New York City, Sister Creep begins to walk around the remains of a New York ravaged by radioactive thunderstorms and tornadoes. While walking around, she finds a glass ring with jewels encased in the glass. Seeing it, she picks it up, believing it is important. She is surprised to see an undamaged building. Entering, she meets “The Man With The Scarlet Eye”. She runs away, and the building collapses. Sister is soon met by other survivors. They make their way through the hazardous Holland Tunnel, eventually scrabbling their way to New Jersey.

In Blue Dome Mountain, Roland awakens in the cafeteria and is unable to find his mother and father. He is then picked up by one of Macklin’s men who leads Roland to Macklin. Macklin is at the bottom of a deep hole. Roland, armed with both a butcher knife and lighter, begins to climb down to Macklin, and finds that his arm is stuck in a wall. He is forced to amputate the arm, and cauterize it with a smoldering portion of desk found in the room. After Macklin’s rescue, the pair must figure out how to break through the area where the food is stored. They find that the entrance to the food stores is blocked by rubble. Macklin oversees as the survivors remove the rubble, which soon collapses on top of the laborers. Simultaneously, Roland is searching through the cafeteria for scraps of food. He is then challenged by one of Colonel Macklin’s former men, Schorr. Schorr has gone insane and taken up arms against Macklin, who he believes knew that this would happen and should have prevented it by ensuring the quality of the fallout shelter. Roland slices Schorr’s left cheek, and kills his two followers.

In Kansas, Swan’s mother dies, as does PawPaw. Josh discovers a gopher hole and starts to dig their way out. He notices that there was grass growing where Swan slept. He starts to realize that she has special powers. After that, they reach the surface.

Sister Creep and her party start to head for Pittsburgh, but are interrupted by a man named Doyle Halland. He says he was a priest who prayed for the dying and the dead. Doyle keeps looking at Sister’s bag, and she shows him the glass ring. While Sister goes on a short excursion with another survivor named Artie, Doyle brutally murders all the other survivors. Sister and her companion return to find Doyle and the corpses. Doyle then says that he had known her all along and had been following her from New York; he was “The Man With the Scarlet Eye.” Sister injures Doyle and escapes.

Back in the Blue Dome, Colonel Macklin, Roland, and Warner sleep in the gym. Soon, Schorr’s men start to pound the door while yelling that they need food, but Macklin refuses to help. They start throwing Molotov cocktails and begin to break the door open. As they charge for the food, Roland begins to shoot them and one of them grabs his neck. Unknown to Roland the man was his father, and Roland blows off his entire head. A woman steals Roland’s gun, but Macklin finds a vent to the outside world. While climbing through the vents, Roland realizes that the woman who stole his weapon was his mother, but he continues on. They reach the surface and begin to walk.

Meanwhile, Josh and Swan reach a town called Sullivan, where they meet Leona Skelton. Her husband, Davy, is on his deathbed, sick from radiation poisoning. Leona tells the future with globes and tarot cards, and after Josh falls asleep, she reads Swan’s cards. She predicts that she is going to face the Devil. When Davy dies, Josh digs a grave for him. There, Swan befriends a stray terrier, who will follow along on Swan’s journey. Afterwards, they make their way to Matheson, a small town away from Sullivan. On their way, they stop at the Jaspin’s farm. Josh discovers that the people in there were brutally murdered. Meanwhile, Swan goes into the cornfield and finds a horse, which she brings with them.

Sister and Artie begin making their way west. But on the way, they are attacked by wolves and are saved by Paul, a mountain man. They follow Paul into the woods to his cabin, where there are more survivors. A few hours in, they keep saying that they should “do it”. It turns out that they want to go on the radio, searching for a voice. Sister is shocked and slaps Paul saying that he gets a sick pleasure from it, but he says it keeps them from going crazy. They then decide to leave in Paul’s truck, eventually arriving at a Red Cross hospital set up in the aftermath of the attack.

Near Salt Lake, Utah, Colonel Macklin and Roland find Shelia Fontana. She has no burn marks on her. Roland has sex with her, and they make their way toward the Fat Man. In Salt Lake, there are two kinds of people: Dirtwarts and Regulars. Dirtwarts country is where Roland and Colonel Macklin live and the Regulars are people with guns, food, water, and other resources. The Fat Man leads them. They go into Regular country and there they meet the Fat Man at his trailer. They have a deal where they get a place and they give him some drugs found in Shelia’s bag. The Fat Man’s men come to get the couple out. But, one of the men kills the couple’s baby when they refuse to go. Soon after this, Macklin soaks his arm in the Salt Lake for it to heal. At the same time, the Fat Man calls Roland to his trailer. But, the Fat Man puts the drugs into the soda that Roland drank and attempts to rape him. Roland kills the Fat Man when he burns his face with a kerosene lamp. Soon after, Macklin, Roland, and Shiela take control of the camp.

Josh and Swan make it to Matheson, and find a K-Mart with all the lights on and stocked with food, and supplies. It turns out to be a trap by the insane people from a nearby asylum. There, Josh must play a game where he must fight through the market to Swan and Leona. He manages to get through to them, but the insane leader decides to kill Swan. Just then, a terrier that was following them attacks him and they escape, but Leona sacrifices herself to allow time for Josh and Swan to escape.

Josh, Swan, Mule, and the Terrier named Killer find an abandoned circus train and befriend Rusty, an ex-rodeo rider and clown. Seven years later, people are surviving in small settlements and wandering groups. Some people have been afflicted by tumor-like growths which appear only on the head and grow, merging into a fleshy helmet that limits breathing, speaking, and sight. This is commonly called “Job’s Mask”. A nuclear winter has made America a wasteland; the sun has not come out in years, and there is still radiation in the rain. The ground is poisoned by toxic rain and no plants grow.

Macklin and Roland Croninger have forged their people into the “Army of Excellence”. Their goal is to purge the countryside of the disfigured, lead the country in rebuilding, and getting revenge on the Russians. The Army of Excellence, or AOE, is over 4,000 strong and is pushing east, capturing and destroying settlements and seizing stockpiles of food, water, and ammunition. They are joined shortly by an insane Christian carpenter, named Alvin Mangrim, who had previously encountered Josh and Swan and who earns the admiration of Macklin and Croninger by presenting Macklin with a replacement right hand with nails protruding from its palm. Both Macklin and Croninger have Job’s Mask and hide it under bandages. They hear about another army and decimate it. They torture a man named Brother Timothy and find out that the other army was heading to Warwick Mountain in West Virginia. Brother Timothy claims that God sheltered him for a few days on a mountaintop there and he had a silver key, a phrase, and a black box that could destroy the world. While they do not know precisely what that means, the AOE decide to head to West Virginia. Initially devoted to Macklin, Croninger eventually gains dominance over Macklin, calling himself the real “King”, while Macklin is just a figurehead. Sheila Fontaine is still with the AOE as an RL or “Recreation Lady” providing sexual companionship to the upper echelons of the AOE, including Macklin and Croninger. She is tormented by guilt in the deaths of Rudy and the baby that was killed to provide space for her.

Sister and Paul are still together and have been crisscrossing the midwest, following her visions. Sister has Job’s Mask. They have dodged the Man with the Scarlet Eye several times and wander, trading for food and supplies. They meet up with a group of boys from an orphanage, led by a 17-year-old boy named Robin Oakes. A doctor uses one of the spikes from the glass ring to successfully operate on Robin’s younger brother. The ring eventually leads the group to a town called Mary’s Rest.

Swan, Josh, and Rusty are traveling entertainers. Rusty performs magic and music while Josh wrestles as the “Masked Mephisto” and performs feats of strength. Swan usually hides in the wagon or in a barn when they come to settlements because her Job’s Mask is so extensive that she is blind and uses Crybaby as a walking stick to feel her way around. Josh has Job’s Mask too, but he hides it under his wrestling mask. They stop at a house in the middle of a stripped orchard. All the trees for a distance around are cut down, but one lone tree is left standing. The couple in the house explain that the one tree was a special apple tree that they just didn’t have the heart to cut down. Swan wanders out to the tree, places her hands on it and is shocked to feel life still in the tree. It calls to her unique ability with plants, which has been neglected due to the lack of living plants in the world. She responds and ‘wakes’ the tree up. The next morning, the tree is covered with blossoms. Everyone is amazed. Swan, Josh, and Rusty decide to continue on to the close-by settlement of Mary’s Rest.

The Man with the Scarlet Eye has been searching for Sister and her magical glass ring all this time. He finds out about Swan and decides that she is a threat to him. He hears that she is heading to a place called Mary’s Rest and decides to meet her there.

At Mary’s Rest, Swan finds the body of a child who was scrabbling in the dirt when he died. Swan finds the corn that the child was trying to plant and decides to honor the child’s memory by finishing what the child started; she starts planting the corn using her special ability to encourage the ground to be fertile and the seeds to grow. She hurts her hands digging in the frozen ground and passes out. Josh finds her and carries her back to the house they are staying in. While she is unconscious, the Man with the Scarlet Eye finds her and almost kills her. Rusty interferes and saves her but is fatally burned. Paul and Sister arrive in town. Sister realizes that the ring has been leading her to Swan. When Swan touches the ring, it blazes with light. She envisions a land covered with plants, orchards, fruit, and flowers, and knows this is her life’s goal. She loses consciousness again, but this time she is very fevered. Swan’s hands heal almost immediately and her Job’s Mask breaks up and falls off, revealing a beautiful woman with fiery red hair. Other people’s Job’s Masks begin falling off, too, and what lies beneath reflects their true souls – most beautiful and strong, but there are some monsters, too. Josh develops a close relationship with a local woman, Glory, and her son Aaron. Despite a prickly start, Swan and Robin begin to fall in love. Aaron figures out how to use the dowsing rod Crybaby and it indicates a source of fresh untainted water. The man with the apple tree drives into town with a truckload of ripe apples and tosses them to a happy crowd. Swan and the residents of Mary’s Rest decide to plant an apple orchard to go along with the cornfield, which sprung up almost overnight and is growing vigorously.

The Man with the Scarlet Eye introduces himself as “Friend” to the Army of Excellence and diverts them to Mary’s Rest with promises of clean water and Swan’s ability to grow food. They attack the town. Many residents, including Paul, are killed, and the AOE take Josh, Sister, Swan, Robin, and others captive. Swan and Sister are brought to Macklin, whose Mask has fallen off to reveal a hideous death’s head. Friend attempts to get the location of the glass ring from Sister, but is unable to get past her mental guards. Even under threat of the torture of her friends, Swan refuses to do anything for the AOE. She and Sister are thrown in with Sheila. Robin and Josh are kept as leverage on Swan and the AOE continues towards Warwick Mountain.

Several weeks later, the AOE runs out of supplies and a much reduced army arrives at Warwick Mountain. Croninger’s Job’s Mask reveals a twisted horror which he continues to hide under bandages. He shifts his allegiance to Friend. Brother Timothy guides Sister, Swan, Friend, Macklin and Croninger to “God’s” bunker. Sister notices God’s cufflinks and recognizes him as the former President of the United States, who survived the crash, yet has now gone insane. The bunker is revealed to house “Talons,” also known as the Tactical Long Range Nuclear Sanitizer. It is a doomsday weapon which, when activated will launch a final barrage of nuclear weapons from two orbital missile platforms onto the Earth’s icecaps. This will cause the Earth’s poles to shift while simultaneously flooding the world over with melted ice, completely destroying all life on Earth. The President has been waiting for any indication that the world is going to be ruled by good or evil. Seeing that evil appears to have won, the President activates Talons, much to the delight of Friend, who sees this as an opportunity to destroy the world, and Swan, once and for all. Friend then kills the President to prevent him from deactivating the launch sequence, gloats about the situation, reveals his true face, tells Roland “I have always walked alone” and leaves, presumably to find a place to watch the destruction. Sister fights with Croninger, who shoots her and almost shoots Swan before being attacked by a conscience-stricken Macklin. They take each other down. Swan figures out the deactivation sequence and disarms the launch computer. She and Sister are rescued by Josh and Robin, who broke out of captivity shortly after the AOE arrived at Warwick Mountain.

They leave the bunker, locking it behind them and throwing away the key. Mortally wounded, Sister notices her shadow and begs to be taken where she can see the sun. Josh, Swan, and Robin take her to a clearing where they watch the end of the nuclear winter as the clouds break up and the sun comes out. Sister tells Swan to work fast to wake up the earth. She then dies. Swan, Josh, and Robin bury her and climb down the mountain. They find the AOE in chaos and are there encountered once more by Friend who has taken the form of an AOE officer. Swan gives him the severed replacement hand of Colonel Macklin and says that she forgives him for his actions as without him they would never have found the house Talons and been able to stop worldwide destruction. Enraged, Friend orders the AOE to kill her but upon seeing Macklin’s hand, they realize that the Colonel is dead and begin to crowd and attack Friend in a bid to claim the hand for themselves and become the leader of the AOE. Josh, Swan and Robin leave in a truck with Sheila and a few other RL’s and soldiers while a pack of wolves descends from the mountain and surrounds the AOE camp. They come across a farmer and his family planting seeds who offer them hospitality. Josh tells Swan that she needs to start her work here, but he is going ahead to Mary’s Rest. He arrives to the welcoming arms of Glory and Aaron.

The story ends with humanity struggling back toward civilization, building settlements, and restoring order. The armies of violence become disorganized and dissolve away. News of Swan’s ability to wake up the Earth is spread throughout the land almost as if it were legend. Settlements begin to trade again and contact is restored with peoples even as far away as Russia. Humanity now dedicates itself to passing on the most important lesson learned from the nuclear holocaust, “never again [to repeat it]!” Swan and Robin eventually make it to Mary’s Rest and have twins named Joshua and Sister. Swan continues her work healing the land, fostering cooperation, and bringing hope to humankind.

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – FEBRUARY 15, 2017

Book – I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1967)
Author – Harlan Ellison

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story by Harlan Ellison. It was first published in the March 1967 issue of IF: Worlds of Science Fiction.

It won a Hugo Award in 1968. The name was also used for a short story collection of Ellison’s work, featuring this story. It was recently reprinted by the Library of America, collected in volume two (Terror and the Uncanny, from the 1940s to Now) of American Fantastic Tales (2009).

The story takes place 109 years after the complete destruction of human civilization. The Cold War had escalated into a world war, fought mainly between China, Russia, and the United States. As the war progressed, the three warring nations each created a super-computer capable of running the war more efficiently than humans.

The machines are each referred to as “AM,” which originally stood for “Allied Mastercomputer”, and then was later called “Adaptive Manipulator”. Finally, “AM” stands for “Aggressive Menace”. One day, one of the three computers becomes self-aware, and promptly absorbs the other two, thus taking control of the entire war. It carries out campaigns of mass genocide, killing off all but four men and one woman.

The survivors live together underground in an endless complex, the only habitable place left. The master computer harbors an immeasurable hatred for the group and spends every available moment torturing them. AM has not only managed to keep the humans from taking their own lives, but has made them virtually immortal.

The story’s narrative begins when one of the humans, Nimdok, has the idea that there is canned food somewhere in the great complex. The humans are always near starvation under AM’s rule, and anytime they are given food, it is always a disgusting meal that they have difficulty eating. Because of their great hunger, the humans are coerced into making the long journey to the place where the food is supposedly kept—-the ice caves. Along the way, the machine provides foul sustenance, sends horrible monsters after them, emits earsplitting sounds, and blinds Benny when he tries to escape.

On more than one occasion, the group is separated by AM’s obstacles. At one point, the narrator, Ted, is knocked unconscious and begins dreaming. He envisions the computer, anthropomorphized, standing over a hole in his brain speaking to him directly. Based on this nightmare, Ted comes to a conclusion about AM’s nature, specifically why it has so much contempt for humanity; that despite its abilities it lacks the sapience to be creative or the ability to move freely. It wants nothing more than to exact revenge on humanity by torturing these last remnants of the species that created it.

The group reaches the ice caves, where indeed there is a pile of canned goods. The group is overjoyed to find them, but is immediately crestfallen to find that they have no means of opening them. In a final act of desperation, Benny attacks Gorrister and begins to gnaw at the flesh on his face.

Ted, in a moment of clarity, realizes their only escape is through death. He seizes a stalactite made of ice and kills Benny and Gorrister. Ellen realizes what Ted is doing, and kills Nimdok, before being herself killed by Ted. Ted runs out of time before he can kill himself, and is stopped by AM. AM, unable to return Ted’s four companions to life, focuses all his rage on Ted. To ensure that Ted can never kill himself, AM transforms him into a large, amorphous, fleshy blob that is incapable of causing itself harm, and constantly alters his perception of time to deepen his anguish. Ted is, however, grateful that he was able to save the others from further torture. Ted’s closing thoughts end with the sentence that gives the story its title. “I have no mouth. And I must scream.”

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – FEBRUARY 8, 2017

Book – The Trial (1925)
Author – Franz Kafka

On his thirtieth birthday, the chief cashier of a bank, Josef K., is unexpectedly arrested by two unidentified agents from an unspecified agency for an unspecified crime. The agents’ boss later arrives and holds a mini-tribunal in the room of K.’s neighbor, Fräulein Bürstner. K. is not taken away, however, but left “free” and told to await instructions from the Committee of Affairs. He goes to work, and that night apologizes to Fräulein Bürstner for the intrusion into her room. At the end of the conversation he suddenly kisses her.

K. receives a phone call summoning him to court, and the coming Sunday is arranged as the date. No time is set, but the address is given to him. The address turns out to be a huge tenement building. K. has to explore to find the court, which turns out to be in the attic. The room is airless, shabby and crowded, and although he has no idea what he is charged with, or what authorizes the process, K. makes a long speech denigrating the whole process, including the agents who arrested him; during this speech an attendant’s wife and a man engage in sexual activities. K. then returns home.

K. later goes to visit the court again, although he has not been summoned, and finds that it is not in session. He instead talks with the attendant’s wife, who attempts to seduce him into taking her away, and who gives him more information about the process and offers to help him. K. later goes with the attendant to a higher level of the attic where the shabby and airless offices of the court are housed.

K. returns home to find Fräulein Montag, a lodger from another room, moving in with Fräulein Bürstner. He suspects that this is to prevent him from pursuing his affair with the latter woman. Yet another lodger, Captain Lanz, appears to be in league with Montag.

Later, in a store room at his own bank, K. discovers the two agents who arrested him being whipped by a flogger for asking K. for bribes and as a result of complaints K. made at court. K. tries to argue with the flogger, saying that the men need not be whipped, but the flogger cannot be swayed. The next day he returns to the store room and is shocked to find everything as he had found it the day before, including the whipper and the two agents.

K. is visited by his uncle, who was K.’s guardian. The uncle seems distressed by K.’s predicament. At first sympathetic, he becomes concerned that K. is underestimating the seriousness of the case. The uncle introduces K. to a lawyer, who is attended by Leni, a nurse, whom K.’s uncle suspects is the advocate’s mistress. During the discussion it becomes clear how different this process is from regular legal proceedings: guilt is assumed, the bureaucracy running it is vast with many levels, and everything is secret, from the charge, to the rules of the court, to the authority behind the courts – even the identity of the judges at the higher levels. The attorney tells him that he can prepare a brief for K., but since the charge is unknown and the rules are unknown, it is difficult work. It also never may be read, but is still very important. The lawyer says that his most important task is to deal with powerful court officials behind the scenes. As they talk, the lawyer reveals that the Chief Clerk of the Court has been sitting hidden in the darkness of a corner. The Chief Clerk emerges to join the conversation, but K. is called away by Leni, who takes him to the next room, where she offers to help him and seduces him. They have a sexual encounter. Afterwards K. meets his uncle outside, who is angry, claiming that K.’s lack of respect has hurt K.’s case.

K. visits the lawyer several times. The lawyer tells him incessantly how dire his situation is and tells many stories of other hopeless clients and of his behind-the-scenes efforts on behalf of these clients, and brags about his many connections. The brief is never complete. K.’s work at the bank deteriorates as he is consumed with worry about his case.

K. is surprised by one of his bank clients, who tells K. that he is aware that K. is dealing with a trial. The client learned of K.’s case from Titorelli, a painter, who has dealings with the court and told the client about K.’s case. The client advises K. to go to Titorelli for advice. Titorelli lives in the attic of a tenement in a suburb on the opposite side of town from the court that K. visited. Three teenage girls taunt K. on the steps and tease him sexually. Titorelli turns out to be an official painter of portraits for the court (an inherited position), and has a deep understanding of the process. K. learns that, to Titorelli’s knowledge, not a single defendant has ever been acquitted. He sets out K.’s options and offers to help K. with either. The options are: obtain a provisional verdict of innocence from the lower court, which can be overturned at any time by higher levels of the court, which would lead to re-initiation of the process; or curry favor with the lower judges to keep the process moving at a glacial pace. Titorelli has K. leave through a small back door, as the girls are blocking the door through which K. entered. To K.’s shock, the door opens into another warren of the court’s offices – again shabby and airless.

K. decides to take control of matters himself and visits his lawyer with the intention of dismissing him. At the lawyer’s office he meets a downtrodden individual, Block, a client who offers K. some insight from a client’s perspective. Block’s case has continued for five years and he has gone from being a successful businessman to being almost bankrupt and is virtually enslaved by his dependence on the lawyer and Leni, with whom he appears to be sexually involved. The lawyer mocks Block in front of K. for his dog-like subservience. This experience further poisons K.’s opinion of his lawyer. (This chapter was left unfinished by the author.)

K. is asked by the bank to show an Italian client around local places of cultural interest, but the Italian client, short of time, asks K. to take him only to the cathedral, setting a time to meet there. When the client does not show up, K. explores the cathedral, which is empty except for an old woman and a church official. K. notices a priest who seems to be preparing to give a sermon from a small second pulpit, and K. begins to leave, lest it begin and K. be compelled to stay for its entirety. Instead of giving a sermon, the priest calls out K.’s name. K. approaches the pulpit and the priest berates him for his attitude toward the trial and for seeking help, especially from women. K. asks him to come down and the two men walk inside the cathedral. The priest works for the court as a chaplain and tells K. a fable (which was published earlier as “Before the Law”) that is meant to explain his situation. K. and the priest discuss the parable. The priest tells K. that the parable is an ancient text of the court, and many generations of court officials have interpreted it differently.

On the eve of K.’s thirty-first birthday, two men arrive at his apartment. He has been waiting for them, and he offers little resistance – indeed the two men take direction from K. as they walk through town. K. leads them to a quarry where the two men place K’s head on a discarded block. One of the men produces a double-edged butcher knife, and as the two men pass it back and forth between them, the narrator tells us that “K. knew then precisely, that it would have been his duty to take the knife… and thrust it into himself.” He does not take the knife. One of the men holds his shoulder and pulls him up and the other man stabs him in the heart and twists the knife twice. K.’s last words are: “Like a dog!”.

(from Wikipedia.com)

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – JANUARY 25, 2017

Book – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
Author – Thomas Harris

Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee, is asked to carry out an errand by Jack Crawford, the head of the FBI division that draws up psychological profiles of serial killers. Starling is to present a questionnaire to the brilliant forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Lecter is serving nine consecutive life sentences in a Maryland mental institution for a series of murders.

Crawford’s real intention, however, is to try to solicit Lecter’s assistance in the hunt for a serial killer dubbed “Buffalo Bill”, whose modus operandi involves kidnapping overweight women, starving them for about three or four days, and then killing and skinning them, before dumping the remains in nearby rivers. The nickname was started by Kansas City Homicide, as a sick joke that “he likes to skin his humps.” Throughout the investigation, Starling periodically returns to Lecter in search of information, and the two form a strange relationship in which he offers her cryptic clues in return for information about her troubled and bleak childhood as an orphan.

When Bill’s sixth victim is found in West Virginia, Starling helps Crawford perform the autopsy. Starling finds a pupa in the throat of the victim, and just as Lecter predicted, she has been scalped. Triangular patches of skin have also been taken from her shoulders. Furthermore, autopsy reports indicate that Bill had killed her within four days of her capture, much faster than his earlier victims.

On the basis of Lecter’s prediction, Starling believes that he knows who Buffalo Bill really is. She also asks why she was sent to fish for information on Buffalo Bill without being told she was doing so; Crawford explains that if she had had an agenda, Lecter would have sensed it and never spoken up.

Starling takes the pupa to the Smithsonian, where it is eventually identified as the Black Witch moth, which would not naturally occur where the victim was found.

In Tennessee, Catherine Baker Martin, daughter of Senator Ruth Martin, is kidnapped. Within six hours, her blouse is found on the roadside, slit up the back: Buffalo Bill’s calling card. He traps her in an oubliette and begins to starve her. Crawford is advised that no less than the President of the United States has expressed “intense interest” in the case, and that a successful rescue is preferable. Crawford estimates they have three days before Catherine is killed. Starling is sent to Lecter with the offer of a deal: if he assists in Catherine’s rescue and Buffalo Bill’s capture, he will be transferred out of the asylum, something he has continually longed for. However, Lecter expresses skepticism at the genuineness of the offer.

After Starling leaves, Lecter reminisces on the past, recalling a conversation with Benjamin Raspail, a former patient whom he had eventually murdered. During therapy sessions, Raspail told Lecter about a former lover, Jame Gumb: after Raspail left Gumb and began dating a sailor named Klaus, Gumb became jealous and murdered Klaus, using his skin to make an apron. Raspail also revealed that Gumb had an epiphany upon watching a moth hatch.

Lecter’s ruminations are interrupted when Dr. Frederick Chilton – the asylum’s administrator and Lecter’s nemesis – steps in. A listening device allowed him to record Starling’s offer, and Chilton has found out that Crawford’s deal is a lie. He offers one of his own: If Lecter reveals Buffalo Bill’s identity, he will indeed get a transfer to another asylum, but only if Chilton gets credit for getting the information from him.

Lecter insists that he’ll only give the information to Senator Martin in person, in Tennessee. Chilton agrees. Unknown to Chilton, Lecter has previously hidden in his mouth a paperclip and some parts of a pen, which were mistakenly given to him by untrained orderlies over his many years at the asylum. He fashions the pen pieces and paperclip into an improvised lockpick, which he later uses to pick his handcuff locks.

In Tennessee, Lecter toys with Senator Martin briefly, enjoying the woman’s anguish, but eventually gives her some information about Buffalo Bill: his name is William “Billy” Rubin, and he has suffered from “elephant ivory anthrax”, a knifemaker’s disease. He also provides an accurate physical description. The name, however, is a red herring: bilirubin is a pigment in human bile and a chief coloring agent in human feces, which the forensic lab compares to the color of Chilton’s hair.

Starling tries one last time to get information from Lecter as he is about to be transferred. He offers a final clue – “we covet what we see every day” – and demands to hear her worst memory. Starling reveals that, after her father’s death, she was sent to live with a cousin on a sheep and horse ranch. One night, she discovered the farmer slaughtering the spring lambs, and fled in terror with one of the slaughter horses whom she named Hannah. The farmer caught her and sent her to an orphanage, where she spent the rest of her childhood, along with Hannah. Lecter thanks her, and the two share a brief moment of connection before Chilton forces her to leave. Later on, she deduces from Lecter’s clue that Buffalo Bill knew his first victim.

Shortly after this, Lecter escapes by killing and eviscerating his guards, using one of their faces as a mask to fool paramedics. Starling continues her search for Buffalo Bill, eventually tracking him down and killing him, rescuing Catherine. She is made a full-fledged FBI agent, and receives a congratulatory telegram from Lecter, who hopes that “the lambs have stopped screaming”.

While writing the letter, Lecter notes to himself that, while he will track down Chilton, Clarice assumes, correctly, he will not come after her. He also predicts correctly that saving Catherine Martin may have granted Clarice some relief, but that the silence will never become eternal, heralding her motives for a continued career at the FBI. Clarice eventually finds rest even after Lecter’s letter, sleeping peacefully “in the silence of the lambs”.

(from Wikipedia.com)
The Silence of the Lambs is an incredible book with many layers and nuances that takes the reader in extremely emotional directions. There are very visceral scenes with both Buffalo Bill’s character and Hannibal Lecter’s. An amazing novel full of horror and feeling. I’d recommend The Silence of the Lambs to anyone who enjoys horror fiction, and I’m probably going to be pulling it off the shelf pretty soon and rereading it for the fifth time.
— Erik

 

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WRITTEN HORROR RECOMMENDATION WEDNESDAYS – JANUARY 18, 2017

Book – Blood Meridian (1985)
Author – Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s 1985 masterpiece may not be horror, but it’s certainly horrifying: bleak, bleak, bleak, and bloody, and bleak, a book that may or may not leave you with no faith in humanity whatsoever.

(from Flavorwire.com)

Cormac McCarthy’s masterwork, Blood Meridian, chronicles the brutal world of the Texas-Mexico borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. Its wounded hero, the teenage Kid, must confront the extraordinary violence of the Glanton gang, a murderous cadre on an official mission to scalp Indians and sell those scalps. Loosely based on fact, the novel represents a genius vision of the historical West, one so fiercely realized that since its initial publication in 1985 the canon of American literature has welcomed Blood Meridian to its shelf.

(from Amazon.com)

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