Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Go read The Three right now

The book: The Three by Sarah Lotz

And what's it about?

They're here ... The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there's so many ... They're coming for me now. We're all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he's not to­­--

The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961 - 2012)

Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.

There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged.

And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone.

A message that will change the world.

The message is a warning.

In a word, it was... Exquisite

There is little that I want to say about the actual plot of this book because the less you know, the better. I read it in a few hours. I would look down at my hands every few minutes and realise they were damp. I was scared and it was weird. I've seen The Three described by someone else on the interwebs as 'literary horror' and I'm inclined to agree with that label. It's literary in the sense that it's some very crafty storytelling that really tricks you into a false sense of thinking you know what's going down when really, you have no clue what the f is up.

The style of the narrative is also really interesting (sorry, no spoilers) and while I thought I would get quite tired of it, I really didn't and quite enjoyed this unique approach.

Those kids though... Those kids are the horror show at the centre of a mystery, a global tragedy, the ambitions of some crazy evangelists, a few imploding families and some just generally freaky shit. Lotz does a superb job of making them feel authentic and that makes what happens all the worse.

Look, it's not perfect. There were some slow bits in three-quarters in and I was not wholly satiated by the ending. I actually liked the ending but I wanted more, I wanted to understand more, I wanted to really, really, really know how it ends.

All of this considered, I haven't been this excited about a book since I read Tell the Wolves I'm Home and, you guys, that was in December of 2012. I enjoyed this so much, I would actually say it's in my top 10 books that I have read. As in, in my whole life.*

So the bottom line, really, is go pre-order this book now. It comes out in less than a month. This will be a no-regret purchase. For real.

*I actually made a list to confirm this. It's number 7.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dark, dark, Dark Whispers

The book: Dark Whispers by Joanne Macgregor

And it's about?

When a patient describes an experience of mental torture and sexual mutilation by a gynaecologist at the private hospital where she works, psychologist Megan Wright decides to investigate. Determined to find out the truth and stop the abuse, but bound to silence by the ethics of confidentiality, Megan must enter the dark mind of a dangerously disturbed man.

Between the anaesthesia and the awakening, are the dark whispers.

In a word, it was... Chilling

Dark Whispers is really not the sort of book I ordinarily like to read because I am not much of a fan of crime fiction and/ thrillers but when Joanne mentioned it at book club, my interest was piqued. When the book arrived, I was swamped at work and it eyed my from my bedside table for a few months, I think. When I finally did sit down to start it, I hit it but couldn't quit it.

The premise of Dark Whispers is disturbing enough to keep you away from your PAP smear for a while: a gynaecologist torturing his patients with no ramifications and few women willing (and able) to come forward about the truth. Psychologist Megan Wright, somewhat haphazardly trying to do the right thing and getting dragged down into the dark with all the others. So yeah, that happened. On the whole, the writing is solid, the pacing really clever and there are a few unexpected dark turns that left me chilled. Yaknow, good stuff.

But for me, Dark Whispers stands out in its genre for two reasons:

Reason 1:
Megan is the kind of character who you feel you know. But like, really, really know. Her family and their drama feels authentic and familiar. Her douchey boyfriend makes you want to roll your eyes and tell her 'you're dating this guy? seriously??' Her reactions to the mess she's put herself in are sometimes kind of annoying but not because they are unrealistic. On the contrary, they are annoying because Megan, seriously, have a little self-preservation gurl. There is a crazy gynae that could walk in at any moment and you have no apparent supernatural gifts to fight this guy off so maybe just stay out of it, ok? Granted, I did not like the gay best friend plot device not the sassy secretary but neither were deal breakers. And, more importantly, by the end, I really cared about what happened to Megan. I really felt like I understood her and that's kind of rare in a genre of archetypes and (sorry) cliches.

Reason 2:
The ending was deeply rewarding. Without giving too much away, I found it intellectually challenging because it did not sit easily with Megan or with anyone who would like to think that in a really tough situation, they would ultimately do the right thing. It made me think: what would I do, really? Could I stand up for those women if the cost was my own life? Could I live with the choice not to? These were not superficial moral questions but I feel they actually speak to the heart of the tension between who you are and who you want to be, what happens to you and what you do to yourself.

Anyway, the point is, even though it seems pretty heavy and quite uncomfortable, it is possible to push through that discomfort and find a book that is greatly satisfying at an emotional and intellectual level, starring a strong-ish and authentic female lead dealing with a very twisted, super-creepy situation. Go buy it.