There’s a particular sort of magic felt by any Constant Reader who gets their hands on a new Stephen King novel. It’s a hard feeling to describe precisely, but it’s akin to coming home after a long time away. The writing style and characters housed within the novel’s covers amplify this comforting vibe by being completely new yet profoundly familiar.
If It Bleeds is Stephen King’s most recent collection of the macabre, released earlier than originally planned this year in response to the desire to escape into new Stephen King fiction felt by many Constant Readers practising social distancing. Each of the four novellas within this collection – including “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, “The Life of Chuck“, the titular “If It Bleeds”, and “Rat” – feel like a return to vintage King, though each accomplishes this feat through very different means.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a novel by Grady Hendrix, whose previous works include such titles as Horrorstör (2014), My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2016), We Sold Our Souls (2018), and his non-fictional history of the paperback boom, Paperbacks from Hell (2017). In 2018, We Sold Our Souls was named one of the best books of 2018 by Library Journal and the Chicago Public Library. If you aren’t a Hendrix fan yet, what are you waiting for? Hendrix is just as masterful at writing character-driven page-turners as he is creating clever, attention-grabbing titles. The Southern Book Club, with its charming characters, biting social commentary, and a healthy dose of gore, may just be my newest favourite of his works.
For those of us who live in areas that boast below freezing temperatures in the winter, January is not a very fun month. It actually hurt my skin when I went outside today. Earlier this month, I learned what a squall was. Look it up, it’s not very fun. I bring up my winter blues because one of the precious few cold-weather activities that helps to allay this doldrum season is the joy of reading a horror novel set during a particularly stormy autumn while concealed beneath a heavy blanket and drinking a hefty mug of hot chocolate. This was my experience reading Abbie Frost’s thrilling debut novel The Guest House.
It Chapter Two is the much-anticipated sequel to Andy Muschietti’s 2017 It, following up twenty-seven years after where It left off. The child members of the Losers’ Club have grown up and grown apart. Apart from Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), who stayed in their childhood home of Derry, Maine, all of the other Losers moved across the country and have completely forgotten about their previous battles with the homicidal supernatural entity which appears to the children as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). After a string of child disappearances, Mike calls the other Losers, instructing them that it’s time to make good on the promise they made twenty-seven years ago to return if Pennywise ever comes back.
Let me admit something up front – I was initially a bit nervous to take on this review. How do you review a Stephen King novel when you’ve been a devoted “Constant Reader” (to borrow King’s term) for most of your life? The task was daunting, but I ultimately decided that my desire to read his latest novel, The Institute, as soon as possible was stronger than my fear of reviewing King’s work. If you’re on this site, you’ve likely encountered something written by Stephen King, whether it be a bestselling novel, short story collection, screenplay, viral tweet, or virtually any other written medium. I could list the awards he’s written, but I think it’s more valuable that I just say this: Stephen King is a horror legend and a vital figure of horror fiction.
Growing Things is a short story collection by Paul Tremblay, the 2018 recipient of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a Novel for his Cabin at the End of the World. Each of the nineteen stories within this collection provides the reader with a gripping picture of terror, each unique and separate from the other pieces within its horrifying menagerie. That being said, one story, “Notes from the Dog Walkers” works well to tether each of the stories together through its construction of the Tremblay Universe.