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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: , Breaking the first rule, chuck palahniuk, diary, , , , , survivor   

    Chuck Palahniuk’s Novels, Ranked 

    Chuck Palahniuk is a difficult writer to discuss; even among his fans, there’s great disagreement about which of his books are classics and which are less essential.

    A writer in possession of a unique and distinct style, a man unafraid of diving down some pretty dark rabbit holes (there have been reports of fainting spells at his live readings), Palahniuk can be a an acquired taste; often your opinion of his works depends on where you start reading them. Here, then is our own assessment of all of his books, starting with the must-reads and proceeding from there.

    Fight Club
    Some contrarians will downgrade Fight Club simply because it’s the most famous and most accessible book he’s written, thanks largely to the accomplished film adaptation. If you set aside its pop culture cachet (and the indelible image of Brad Pitt’s abs) and look at it simply as a novel full of ideas, it’s easily Palahniuk’s cleanest, sharpest, and most compelling. The idea of disaffected young men forming underground fight clubs to scream out their repressed rage remains perfectly plausible, and the trick the author pulls off with his unreliable narrator is one of his most successful twists. The end result is a book that’s as tight and near-perfect as … well, Brad Pitt’s abs.

    Survivor
    Tender Branson is the last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult; Creedists went out into the world and performed domestic tasks for people for free, dedicating their lives to service. When the cult’s compound is raided by the authorities, the cultists commit mass suicide—and for years afterwards, the remaining cultists will periodically reveal themselves and commit suicide to join their predecessors. Eventually, Tender is the last remaining Creedist, and he becomes an absurd celebrity as a result—until it’s revealed that the Creedist suicides might not have been suicides at all. Branson dictates his story into the black box of a crashing 747, as Palahniuk delivers another novel with an absurd but compelling high concept, the pages counting down to disaster.

    Lullaby
    The simplicity of this one makes it stand out. A reporter investigating SIDS discovers the existence of a short poem that instantly kills anyone who hears it—or who even has the lines thought at them. The reporter sets off to destroy every copy of the deadly verse, but finds resisting the urge to use its power to kill those who threaten or perhaps simply irritate him nearly impossible, the words pouring out of him before he even knows what he’s doing. If you pause to think about all the people you would have killed today for breaking rules of polite society, it quickly becomes clear how terrifying this idea is—especially because it’s not some distant serial killer doing the evil deeds, but the narrator, making for uncomfortably compelling reading.

    Make Something Up
    Palahniuk is just as good at short fiction as he is at long reads; He works best with a sharp focus, and that’s what short form writing gives him. With stories that delve into squicky areas like child sexuality, teenagers abusing technology to shock themselves into stupors, and the concept of “gay conversion therapy,” Palahniuk explores a strange shared universe where terrible things happen as a matter of course, and where everyone seems to be an expert in something.

    Haunted
    As if recognizing his skill with shorter narratives, Palahniuk pulls off something a lot of novelists have tried at with varying degrees of success—the novel as a collection (or vice versa). A group of aspiring writers take part in a hybrid retreat and reality program, locking themselves in an abandoned theater for three months to write without interruption or distraction. With food supplies limited, one by one the participants decide to make their survival story more compelling by sabotaging things in small ways—ways that slowly combine to turn the experiment into a nightmare. Alternating between the overarching plot and the short stories being written by each participant—including the notorious, faint-inducing “Guts”—Palahniuk’s control of so many distinct voices is breathtaking.

    Invisible Monsters
    While both versions of the author’s debut novel are very good, we’d recommend the slightly rejiggered “remix” edition, as it’s the one Palahniuk wants you to read. Challenging, non-linear, and filled with the sort of gonzo twists that shouldn’t work, this is one book that gets a different reaction from everyone. The story of an attention-obsessed former model obsessed who suffers a disfiguring accident that renders her so ugly she becomes invisible to people—because they don’t like looking at her—it is chaotic and gruesome, but its themes of social invisibility and reinvention are some of the strongest Palahniuk has ever dealt with.

    Choke
    Med school dropout Victor is one of Palahniuk’s least likable and least sympathetic characters, which makes this a book some folks—even Palahniuk’s fans—avoid. But Victor’s pathetic and horrific existence—one part awful job role-playing at a fake historical village, one part awful con jobs pretending to choke in exchange for free meals, one part trolling sex addiction meetings, and one part his trials with his dying, abusive, senile mother—is given a dream of hope when he thinks he might have found evidence there is good in him despite the dinginess of his life. The story meanders a bit, which is why we put it a bit lower in the top 10, but the prose sings, as Victor emerges as a truly original and unforgettable character trapped in a hell of his own devising—an escapist fantasy world he doesn’t realize is worse than his grim reality.

    Bait: Off-Color Stories for You to Color
    Leave it to Palahniuk to subvert the adult coloring book craze the world experienced a few years ago, but here’s the thing—this isn’t a joke. Palahniuk not only takes great care with the coloring book aspect, offering sincere guides to using watercolors and other tips to make your creative efforts as successful as possible, he also offers up some absolutely terrific short stories to go along with the descriptions. This would be a fine collection even without the extracurricular coloring. With the coloring, it’s a phenomenal effort.

    Snuff
    The premise is either going to hook you or horrify you: a pornographic actress at the tail end of her career decides to guarantee her legacy by breaking the record for most sex acts in a single film. With 600 men waiting their turn, the narration whips between a small number of them with stories to tell, as well as the female producer coordinating everyone’s efforts. Secrets are revealed, agendas are pursued, and Palahniuk examines the strange culture and trivia of the adult film industry with his usual relish. The ending is either brilliant or a bit much—we fall on the brilliant side, which is why it’s in the top 10.

    Adjustment Day
    Palahniuk’s newest is a return to form in some ways—not in the sense of overall quality, but in the jittery, pitch black energy that raged in some of his earlier works. This story of an online revolution that brutally transforms society in ways both unexpected and violent, it has the sharp-edged observation of the writer’s best, combined with a cynical view of human nature (the societies that are born from the explosion of class resentment are horrifyingly comical). Palahniuk gloriously explores the boiling frustration of those at the fringes of society being turned against the 1 percent, and the results are exceedingly gripping, even if some of his funny ideas undermine the tension a bit.

    Rant
    Palahniuk’s eighth novel doesn’t get as much attention as some of his other works, which is unfortunate, because it’s a beautifully-flawed look at religion, and how stories get twisted in the retelling. Buster Casey lives in an alternate future where the world has been divided into two curfewed groups—Daytimers and Nighttimers. Buster was one of the worst serial killers of all time, and Palahniuk constructs a faux oral history of the man’s disturbed and disturbing life as he rose from sick kid to mass murderer, wherein Buster evolves into an almost godlike figure, his every move legendary, his every crime somehow more than just a bloody expression of mental illness. It’s a deft trick of a novel undermined somewhat by the unnecessary alternate universe aspect; set in a more realistic world, it would be even more powerful.

    Legacy: An Off-Color Novella for You to Color
    Palahniuk’s second stab at an adult coloring book isn’t quite as strong as Bait, in part because it’s a single, novella-length story instead of a collection of shorter works. The story is good: an amoral, bored investment banker named Vincent is informed he’s been left an inheritance that includes, apparently, immortality. Vincent is determined to claim his legacy and live forever, but a group of weird people descend on him seeking to claim eternal life for their own. While interesting and complemented well by the coloring pages, the story lacks the bite you expect from Palahniuk.

    Damned
    Your mileage will vary with Damned, the story of a 13-year old girl named Madison who commits suicide and finds herself in Hell, described as a relentlessly banal space. Madison, whose famous parents ignored her, is put to work doing things like making telemarketing calls during dinnertime, and finds the afterlife to be like being trapped in an awful mall forever. That’s the point Palahniuk is making, of course—evil is banal—but it results in a curiously toothless story, only great in flashes.

    Stranger Than Fiction
    The essays collected here are a mix of magazine assignments and previously unpublished work. What they prove is that Palahniuk is a great writer, and that his main source of inspiration for his often vitriolic view of the world is the world itself—in short, these 100 percent true stories often read just like his fiction, including the bizarre, the upsetting, and the queasily unexpected. The only reason it’s this low on our list is the fact that some of the subjects just aren’t as interesting as his fiction. Still, there’s plenty to love here—if nothing else, Palahniuk’s prose is effortlessly funny, and he finds nuggets of the fascinating even in the most banal subjects.

    Diary
    This novel is an outlier in the Palahniuk oeuvre; while some rank it pretty high, we simply can’t go to there. A hackneyed painter suffers from various mystery illnesses unless she’s painting, and everyone encourages her to work more and more, believing her paintings will save the island she lives on. Her contractor husband lies in a coma, and the rooms he remodeled on the mainland start to disappear. Reality distorts and shifts, but Palahniuk is a little out of his usual element, and it shows; the novel starts off strong, with an eerie atmosphere and effortless sense of dread, but the closer the story gets to revealing its secrets, the more ridiculous it all seems.

    Fugitives and Refugees
    Is it fun to read a travel book about Portland, Oregon penned by Palahniuk? Heck yes it is. Does he make Portland sound deliriously interesting and even a little foreboding and edgy? Sure. There’s nothing wrong with the charming enthusiasm Palahniuk brings to the subject of his hometown, nor the deployment of his trademark passion for exhaustive and interesting detail . It’s a must-read if you’re heading to Portland. The problem is, what if you’re not heading to Portland?

    Pygmy
    Credit where it’s due: Palahniuk is challenging himself with this one. The premise is solid—a group of children are trained to infiltrate the United States as foreign exchange students so they can execute an act of grand terrorism. The problem is the constrained style, a strangled grammar reflecting the narrator’s worldview that renders even simple sentences difficult to parse. Books shouldn’t be downgraded just because they’re difficult reads, and if you’re a Palahniuk super-fan there’s a darkly funny story and character here to savor—but for less die-hard readers, it feels like a missed opportunity.

    Tell-All
    Palahniuk tackles Hollywood with a story told by Hazie Coogan, who cares for a washed-up actress and becomes concerned when a young man seduces her charge—and has already written a memoir about which ends with the actress’ death. Written in the style of old gossip columns and using many of the structures and tropes of old scripts, there’s a lot to like about the narrative and the central character, and Palahniuk never fails to entertain and disturb, often simultaneously. But the plot is a little slight compared to his better works, and while the name-dropping is fascinatingly perverse (you’ll need to Google a lot of people who appear for only a sentence or two) it’s not the most memorable thing he has written.

    Fight Club 2
    Returning to a seminal literary achievement was always going to be a dangerous move, and we sort of wish Palahniuk hadn’t made it, even in the guise of a graphic novel. Set a decade after Tyler Durden was vanquished and kept at bay by pharmaceuticals and therapy, the unnamed narrator of the original—now named Sebastian, in one of many disappointing revelations—can’t satisfy his wife sexually because of the drugs, so she secretly cuts his dose, allowing Tyler to reemerge. Excited yet? By the time Palahniuk appears as himself toward the end to discuss how the story isn’t working, you’ll either see it as genius or desperation.

    Doomed
    Who, exactly, was demanding a sequel to Damned remains a mystery, but teenage snark-machine Madison is back, this time as a ghost banished to purgatory (the big joke is that Earth itself is purgatory), where she haunts her own life and slowly begins to understand that her existence has been shaped and guided by something sinister since the very beginning. Madison winds up shifting the balance of power between heaven and hell, but this one never seems to get off the ground. (There was supposed to be a third installment to the trilogy, but perhaps even in Hell, cooler heads prevailed.)

    Beautiful You
    This novel should work gangbusters: an average girl named Penny finds herself in bed with the world’s greatest lover, a billionaire tech mogul who is working on a new line of pleasure products—which Penny dutifully tests, risking her life as mind-erasing orgasms and sexual comas become common. Penny meets some of his former lovers—all of whom were dumped on day 136 of their affair. The same fate greets Penny on the same day the new line of “personal care” products in released, and men become instantly obsolete as women retreat to their bedrooms for the aforementioned sex comas, etc. There’s a subtlety to this one that is affecting; the problem is, the premise screams out for a good, old-fashioned Palahniuk-ing, leaving us unsatisfied.

    What’s your favorite Chuck Palahniuk novel?

    The post Chuck Palahniuk’s Novels, Ranked appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/07/30 Permalink
    Tags: , always on, chuck palahniuk, ,   

    6 Books in Which the Internet Helps Destroy the World 

    It’s remarkable how quickly the internet has moved from new innovation to simply become the way we live now. It’s possible no other technology has so deeply permeated every aspect of our lives, even television. And even still, many people are actively seeking more internet access—higher bandwidth, more data, more connected devices.

    But not everyone is sold. Even before the privacy scandals and election tampering, a few writers looked at the internet and saw the potential for worldwide chaos. In these six books, being constantly plugged in isn’t just bad for you, it’s the end of the world.

    Adjustment Day, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Palahniuk’snew novel harkens back to Fight Club, again profiling disaffected youths, a violent underground movement, and an absurd world that’s less absurd the more you think about it. The United States is moving towards war, re-instituting the draft as part of a plan to kill off Millennials before they rise up in anger. As an actor begins appearing on television and radio promising a new world order is coming, an underground movement distributes a book and whispers about a coming Adjustment Day, as an online site called The List begins compiling a database of people who threaten society. When Adjustment Day arrives, the people on The List are brutally murdered, and the world is remade in blood and chaos. The violent are elevated, everyone else is enslaved—and it all started on the internet.

    The Circle, by Dave Eggers
    When first published, Eggers’ divisive novel read almost like it was written by an alien observing internet culture from a distant star, but his story of a privacy armageddon has only grown more chilling as we find out what the real-world tech titans have long known about us—and what they’re doing with that data. The Circle sweeps the world with concepts like TruYou that make any sort of false identity impossible, pushes people to give their every moment over to pervasive cameras—to go “transparent” in the name of openness. Secrets are a thing of the past, but so is privacy. While the world doesn’t exactly end in The Circle, society is damaged and made worse, contemplating the chilling idea that someday even our private thoughts might be made public knowledge.

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
    Gaiman’s novel imagines that gods are brought into existence and given power through belief. Thus old gods like Odin are failing, while new and sometimes bizarre ones are rising up thanks to modern innovations. That the god of the internet—known as Technical Boy—is one of the main villains is significant, even though the gods, whether old or new, aren’t presented as good or bad in any rational sense. Technical Boy, growing more powerful as the old gods fade away, wants to not just defeat his rival deities, but to delete them from reality altogether. The idea of the internet (with an assist from the internet’s older mirror, Media) erasing all that came before is effective precisely because we’re already living in a Fake News world.

    Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
    The role of the internet in the end of the world isn’t made explicit in Atwood’s novel, but it’s clear that the violent entertainment consumed online by Crake and Jimmy is linked to the state of society pre-apocalypse, one ruled by immensely powerful biotech corporations. This future values technical capability above all else, and casually creates life in order to experiment on it, ultimately inspiring Crake to destroy the world entirely. His motivations are up for debate, but the role the internet plays in it is clear, and damning.

    Analog, by Gerry Duggan and David O’Sullivan
    This graphic novel kicks off with “The Great Doxxing,” as secrets hidden across the internet, are exposed. While those with truly horrifying things to hide find their lives destroyed and their connection to society severed, many people find having all their shameful secrets exposed grants them a sort of freedom. After all, once everyone knows what you do in the shadows, why not start doing it wherever you like? Whether this counts as destruction of society or an upgrade depends on your personal point of view, but consider a world where people no longer feel the need to hide things.

    Daemon, by Daniel Suarez
    Matthew A. Sobol, brilliant computer programmer and businessman, is dying of a brain tumor and worried about the future viability of the human race. His solution is to create a daemon—a computer program designed to run noiselessly in the background (the device you’re reading this on has a bunch of daemons running on it right now)—that will work to create a New World Order, by any means necessary. Using the internet, the Daemon soon takes over companies and directs their resources towards creating deadly robots, enlisting human agents, and creating a secret other internet for hidden communication. While the Daemon itself isn’t exactly the Internet, without a globally-linked system like it, Suarez’s world might not actually implode. Let’s hope ours avoids a similar fate.

    What’s the scariest internet novel you’ve ever read?

    The post 6 Books in Which the Internet Helps Destroy the World appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , bentley little, bird box, blindness, , carrion comfort, chuck palahniuk, , , dathan auerbach, dawn, , exquisite corpose, , ghost story, , hell house, , , , jack ketchum, jose saramago, josh malarian, koji suzuki, lionel shriver, , , , , , penal, , peter straub, poppy z. brite, ramsey campbell, , richard matheson, ring, rosemary’s baby, scott smith, , something wicked this way comes, , the face that must die, the girl next door, , the ruins, the walking, , , we need to talk about kevin,   

    25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever 

    Literature can be a moving, beautiful artistic experience. Skilled writers can bring us face to face with scenarios and emotions we might never encounter in real life, expanding our understanding of both the universe and our fellow man.

    It can also scare the living daylights out of us. Horror novels don’t always get the respect they deserve; just because something is scary doesn’t mean it’s not “literary” or well-crafted art, but if the core purpose of a story is perceived to be “making you soil yourself in fear” for some reason that story won’t get much respect. Of course, a story can be terrifying without necessarily being great art. If your goal is to be so terrified of a book that you put it in the freezer and book a hotel room for a few days, here are twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest.

    Literally Everything Edgar Allan Poe Wrote
    Poe had a knack for infusing everything he wrote with visceral dread. His characters and narrators tend towards the mentally fragile and the insane, people who are haunted by things that might be literal or might be manifestations of their unsound thought processes. Either way, stories like The Tell-Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado retain their power to petrify more than a century-and-a-half after their publication because Poe tapped into the fundamental fear we all have that the world and people around us are not what they seem.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    Put simply, House of Leaves is one of the most frightening books ever written. From a fairly standard horror premise (a house is revealed to be slightly larger on the inside than is strictly possible) Danielewski spins out a dizzying tale involving multiple unreliable narrators, typographic mysteries, and looping footnotes that manage to drag the reader into the story and then make them doubt their own perception of that story. It’s a trick no one else has managed to such dramatic effect, making this novel more of a participatory experience than any other work of literature—which, considering the dark madness at its core, isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience.

    Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
    The film adaptation has supplanted the novel in pop culture, but the novel was a huge hit for Levin—and the film actually sticks to the plot and dialog so closely you really do get a feel for the novel from watching it. The story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after a nightmare gets its terror not from the well-known twist of the baby’s parentage (hint: not her husband), but from the increasing isolation Rosemary experiences as her suspicions about everyone around her grow. So many threads tie into the terror, from the emotional and economic uncertainty of a struggling young couple to the simple fear any mother has for their child, all expertly knotted into a story that will keep you awake at night.

    The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
    When you think about clichés in horror fiction, the haunted house is at the top of the list, an idea done so often it’s frequently an unintentional parody. Shirley Jackson, however, was no ordinary writer, and she takes the concept of the haunted house and perfects it. The Haunting of Hill House is simply the best haunted house story ever written. The scares come not just from the malevolent actions of a house that seems sentient and angry, but from the claustrophobia we experience from the novel’s unreliable narrator, Eleanor, whose descent into madness is slow and excruciating and only begins after we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming relatability of her early persona.

    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    The great sage Pat Benatar once sang that hell is for children. Golding’s account of children stranded on an island without supplies or adult supervision is absolutely terrifying for one simple reason: there’s nothing supernatural going on. It’s a story about insufficiently socialized humans descending into savagery because that’s our fundamental nature. You look into the abyss at the center of this novel and the abyss looks back.

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
    Another story centered on the terror of children, the horror inherent in this story comes from the fact that the human beings we create eventually become their own people—and possibly strangers to us. Not everyone has a close and loving relationship with their parents, and while the idea that your own kids might grow up to be criminals isn’t pleasant, most people assume they will at least recognize themselves in their kids. But what if you don’t? What if your child—your child—is a blank monster?

    Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
    In the Internet Age it’s pretty easy to fall down a rabbit hole of pop culture obsession, and there are still dark areas of culture that haven’t had a wiki created around them. Pessl’s story about a mysterious underground filmmaker whose movies may or may not contain hints of dark power and horrific events and the journalist who becomes obsessed with him asks the reader how you can be certain there’s a clear line between fact and fiction, then, once that wedge of doubt is established, presents a terrifying fiction to fill that space.

    Ring, by Kōji Suzuki
    The novel that inspired the horror films of the same name, the premise is well-known: anyone who watches a mysterious videotape of creepy images is informed that they will die in seven days—and then they die. The investigation into the tape and how to avoid this grim fate leads to what remains an incredibly shocking backstory involving rape, smallpox, and a forgotten well. Technology has shifted, but the terror never really relied on VHS tapes—it’s the concept that ideas can be deadly, that simply by experiencing something you can be doomed, that’s so horrifying.

    Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach
    Pivoting on the idea that we’re often blinded by the details we can see, making it impossible to see the bigger picture, Auerbach’s debut began life as a series of creepypasta stories on the Internet. The episodic nature of the story is ideal for the effect he achieves; the narrator tells of being a young boy and sending a penpal request attached to a balloon with his classmates, including his best friend Josh. He doesn’t receive a response until nearly a year later, and his life takes a turn for the bizarre shortly afterwards. A series of tragic and strange things happen to him and everyone around him, building a sense of dread that is only increased when the truth is revealed.

    Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons
    Simmons’ novel follows several groups of people who have The Ability, a psychic power that allows them to take control of others from a distance and force them to perform any action. When one of their puppets murders someone, the person with The Ability is invigorated and strengthened. Simmons doesn’t shy away from the implications of this power on history and the future, and the book will destroy any sense of security you have in the world around you, revealed to possibly be simply a worldwide board game for those who can control us all like pawns.

    Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
    Several of King’s books could be on this list, but he frequently blunts the terror of his stories with the richness and humanity of his characterizations and the sprawl of his narratives. Pet Sematary manages to be his most terrifying novel by dint of its simple, devastating concept: a magical cemetery where buried things come back to a sort-of life—but aren’t quite what they once were. From that simple idea King ramps up to a climax that gets under your skin in a fundamental way most horror stories fail to.

    The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
    Horror often pivots on the corruption or warping of societal norms and rules; once you feel like you can’t rely on the natural social order, literally anything is possible. Ketchum’s disturbing novel about the unimaginable abuse suffered by two sisters when they are forced to live with their mentally unstable aunt and her three savage sons is based on real events, but it’s the central theme of an adult giving official sanction to the atrocities that makes this story so utterly horrifying.

    Blindness, by Jose Saramago
    Helplessness is a key factor in a lot of horror; most people labor under the delusion that they are in charge of their destiny and their lives, and horror is often effective simply by reminding us how little control we actually have. An epidemic of blindness leaves an entire city’s population secluded in a mental institution as society within and without crumbles. The brutality and descent into animalistic madness is all too realistic, and Saramago manages to capture the terrifying confusion and helplessness experienced by people in a society that no longer functions.

    Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
    McCarthy’s entire writing style and technique is terrifying; the man could write a grocery list that leaves the reader dripping with dread. This tale of extreme, ruthless, and pervasive violence in the American west emerges from under a sheen of the unreal to become all too real, and the greatest trick McCarthy manages here is by making the single most terrifying aspect of the story—the main character’s death—the one act of brutality he doesn’t depict, leaving the terrors contained within that scene to our imagination—which is infinitely worse than anything he might have conjured.

    Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z. Brite
    Brite’s most famous novel follows two serial killers who initially aim to kill each other but, upon discovering a fellow traveler, instead engage in a spree of horrific sex and murder. The matter-of-fact way the pair concocts a plan to kidnap, torture, and then consume a beautiful gay man named Tran is the sort of stuff that could simply be shocking, but Brite continuously considers the value of existence and what we could all be doing with the time we have left—time we too often imagine to be infinite when, of course, we’re all going to be consumed someday by something.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s epic rumination on childhood and adulthood tells the story of a magical circus come to a small town, offering the residents dark gifts they weren’t aware they wanted—most notably the carousel that can change your physical age, making boys who yearn to be adults grow older, and middle-aged men and women who yearn for their lost youth to grow younger. Bradbury knows the worst horror in the world is losing the natural order of your life, and perfectly captures the combination of dread and excitement everyone experiences as they crack the mysteries separating them from adulthood.

    Hell House, by Richard Matheson
    What Matheson taps into in this classic haunted house story is the universal fear that we are already lost, already broken. Hired to investigate the existence of an afterlife by exploring the notoriously haunted Belasco House, a team moves in and slowly succumbs to the influence of the entity within—an entity that only uses their own weaknesses and secret shames against them. Their descent into the depths of horror is too close for comfort as a result—for everyone reading the book knows all too well that they have weaknesses, and secret shames, as well.

    The Face That Must Die, by Ramsey Campbell
    Campbell wrote a number of books that are absolutely terrifying, but this one stands out in the way he forces the reader to completely inhabit the mind of a very sick man, Horridge. As he fixates on an overweight man living in his neighborhood, the reader is forced to see the world consistently through his eyes. Everything is off-beat, everything drips with ominous meaning and horrific intent. Horridge sees the entire world as a horror that must be destroyed, and for a while the reader is carried along on that uncomfortable point of view, leaving them exhausted and terrified.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Told in alternating chapters that depict a group of aspiring writers voluntarily secluded in an unusual writer’s retreat and the stories they’re writing, Haunted not only contains one of the most disturbing short stories ever published (“Guts,” which caused several people to faint when Palahniuk read it in public) it’s also a deep dive into madness as the reality-TV obsessed characters start sabotaging their experiment in a quest for fame. The sense of suffocating dread that Palahniuk applies grows so incrementally you don’t notice it until you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath for five pages.

    Dawn, by Octavia Butler
    Although technically science fiction, this story of the human race centuries after a devastating apocalypse is straight terror in many ways. Lilith is one of the last surviving humans, awakened on an alien ship. The aliens, three-sexed and many-tentacled, offer Lilith a deal: they will help her repopulated the Earth, but their price is to breed with humanity to gain humanity’s “talent” for cancer (and the creative possibilities it offers) while blunting their self-destructive tendencies. The horror imbued in each page is subtle, but it exerts tremendous mental pressure as you progress through the story.

    The Walking, by Bentley Little
    Far from just another tale of zombies, Little’s story of a man whose father rises from death after a stroke sizzles with a sense of doom long before the reader understands what’s at stake. Discovering that many families are hiding zombie relatives, and have been for some time, private investigator Miles Huerdeen digs into the mystery—and what he finds is easily the scariest stuff about zombies you’ll ever read. If you watch zombie movies and shows and laugh at their shuffling, mindless threat, this book will change your mind.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Smith’s story is deceptively simple: a group of tourists in Mexico go off in search of an archaeological site where a friend has set up camp; they find a pyramid covered in odd vines, the land around it salted and barren. Once on the pyramid, they discover the dead body of their friend, covered in the vines, and that the nearby villagers have arrived with guns to force them to remain on the pyramid. The vines are one of those simple monsters that seem so easy to defeat at first blush, yet the inexorable doom that descends on the characters slowly, grindingly proves otherwise.

    Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
    Malerman’s intense story of a world that slowly crumbles as people go murderously insane after seeing mysterious creatures—referred to simply as The Problem—is so scary because the reader only has the information that the characters have, and that’s not much. The world collapses and the survivors can only seal themselves off from the outside and try to avoid the worst, leading to a torturous wearing down of hope that leaves the reader defenseless against the horrible images Malerman conjures.

    Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
    A good old-fashioned ghost story is designed to terrify and entertain, and Straub’s breakthrough novel does both. Five old friends gather regularly to trade ghost stories, but when one of them dies mysteriously and the survivors begin to dream of their own deaths, a secret from their past is revealed—and the simple pleasures of a ghost story are explored to their most frightening ends by a master of the form.

    Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    If you don’t think of Beloved as a horror story, you haven’t been paying attention. Morrison’s skill as a writer is in full effect as she draws the reader into what is assuredly one of the saddest and most horrifying stories committed to paper. There’s no more terrifying sequence than the long slide into madness as escaped slave Sethe, convinced the young woman calling herself Beloved is the daughter she murdered in an attempt to keep her safe from slavers come to reclaim them, grows steadily thinner and weaker as she gives everything she has—including food—to Beloved, who grows steadily larger.

    Did we leave off any truly terrifying books? Let us know in the comments.

    The post 25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Lauren Passell 1:30 pm on 2017/07/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , chuck palahniuk, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever 

    Warning: if you like to be surprised, stop reading right now. Get a glass of water or look at Buzzfeed or start working on your memoir.

    But if you’re curious about these books and their kick-to-the-stomach endings, then by all means, read on. (Because I’m not completely cruel, I’ve whited out the spoilers—just highlight the empty space to see the hidden words.)

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    The Sinner, by Petra Hammesfahr
    One of the best examples of a “whydunnit” in recent years, German author Hammesfahr’s twisty novel (soon to air as a miniseries on USA starring Jessica Biel) is largely told in flashback after Cora Bender, a seemingly normal mother and housewife, inexplicably stabs a man to death while on a beach picnic with her family. Cora confesses readily and claims to have no idea why she just committed homicide—but a patient policeman thinks there’s more to the story, and slowly susses out the truth—Cora’s younger sister was born extremely ill, and her mother became obsessed with caring for her, forcing her father to share a room with Cora, resulting in a creepily close relationship between the two that comes as close to abuse as possible without crossing that final line. Her sister Magdalena isn’t as innocent as she seems—despite her frailty, she manipulates Cora and also has an intensely, inappropriately intimate relationship with her. When Cora is 19, she takes Magdalena with her to meet a boy and his friends, not realizing that Magdalena is near death and wishes to die. Two of the boys rape Cora while the third has sex with Magdalena—who dies during the act, a specific piece of music playing on the radio. When Cora freaks out, one of the boys hits her in the head with an ashtray, and to cover up the crime, they hold Cora captive for six months. Years later, when the music plays again at the beach, Cora snaps, and strikes out with a knife.

    Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
    In Ender’s Game, the survival of the human race depends on Ender Wiggin, the child genius recruited for military training by the government… But while you (and Ender) believe he is fighting in mind simulation, in truth, he’s been  manipulated into fighting a real war, and actually killing the enemies, called buggers. He moves to a new colony planet with his sister, where he discovers that the buggers have created a space just for him. They didn’t know humans had intelligence, and they want to communicate with him. They show him what the war looked like from their point of view, and Ender and the buggers meet a point of understanding. He vows to live with them in peace, starts a new kind of religion, and writes a Bible-like book about the buggers, signing it Speaker For The Dead, which is a perfect segue into the Ender’s Game sequel.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    Atonement is about misinterpretation and its repercussions. Briony observes her big sister Cecilia and Cecilia’s friend Robbie flirting and assumes something shameful has happened between them. She accuses Robbie of rape, and Robbie goes to jail. The story then follows Cecilia and Robbie as they go to war, fall in love, and wind up together forever. But at the end of the novel, you discover that Briony is actually the book’s narrator—and she’s been lying to you, too. She did accuse Robbie of rape, and he was jailed, but C & R didn’t live happily ever after together, after all. They both died in the war. Briony just wrote a happy ending for them to atone for her sins. That’s what she says, anyway. I’m not sure I believe anything she says anymore.

    And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
    Most Agatha Christie novels leave you gobsmacked (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, anyone?) But And Then There Were None is an absolute masterpiece of the whodunnit? formula. People invited to a party in a mansion keep on being murdered, but by whom? Well, if you’re sure you want to know…it was Judge Wargrave! Swaddled in a red curtain, he fakes his own death so that you, the reader, assume the murderer is someone else. But in a written confession at the end of the novel, you learn that he invited people to a desolate island in order to kill them one by one as punishment for the terrible things they’d done (and thought they got away with). Agatha, you sneak!

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    In Gone Girl, husband and wife Nick and Amy tell the story of their tumultuous marriage. We read what we think is Amy’s diary, and it condemns Nick as a violent jerk. We start to believe that Nick is responsible for Amy’s disappearance and possible death. But in a series of twists, the truth is revealed—Amy and Nick are both liars. Nick was having an affair, and Amy has been alive all along, on the lam, trying to frame Nick for her death. What we thought was her diary is actually a cunning trap: it’s a piece of fiction Amy wrote for the police to find. Amy kills a friend and returns to Nick, pregnant with his child, claiming she was kidnapped. Nick takes her back even though he knows the truth. In the end, Amy says she’s getting ready to become a mom by writing her abduction story. She should hang out with Briony.

    Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
    Rebecca begins with one of the most mesmerizing first lines in literature—“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Things only get more interesting from there. The unnamed protagonist marries Maxim de Winter and moves into his home, called Manderley. She struggles to live up to the legend of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, who was seemingly perfect. Mrs. Danvers, the maid, almost gets the protagonist to kill herself in despair. But one day, divers find a sunken sailboat that belonged to Rebecca, revealing that Rebecca was murdered. Maxim then tells the truth: Rebecca was a wretched woman who had multiple affairs—one, with her cousin, resulted in her pregnancy. When Maxim found out, he killed her. In yet another twist, we find out that Rebecca was lying to Maxim—she wasn’t pregnant, but was actually dying of a terminal illness. In the end Old Danvers burns the joint down and disappears. As for Maxim and the protagonist? Happily ever after.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In Howard Koch’s The Dinner, two brothers and their wives sit down for a meal to discuss the horrific crime committed by their sons. The cousins have been caught on camera attacking a sleeping homeless woman in an ATM, throwing trash and a container of gasoline at her, and then burning her to death. Koch makes it clear that the family is bonded by a common sociopathology. The family argues over what to do. Serge, a politician, wants to come clean about the boys’ crime. Enraged by Serge’s stance, his sister-in-law Claire attacks him, disfiguring his face. Claire urges her nephews to “take care” of Beau, Serge and Babette’s adopted son, who witnessed the crime and is blackmailing the boys by threatening to reveal what they did. At the end of the novel, Beau is missing, and one of the cousins comes home covered in blood and mud. Wonder what happened to him?

    Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows, by J.K. Rowling
    In J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series, it’s revealed that Harry is a Horcrux, and must be killed before Voldemort can be. Viewing Snape’s memories in the Pensieve, Harry sees Snape talking to Dumbledore and finds out that Snape’s been his protector all this time. Snape loved Harry’s mother, Lily Potter, and spent his entire life spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Dumbledore had been steering Harry to sacrifice himself for the larger good. Good and evil are blurred once again when Harry survives and learns that Dumbledore loved him, even if he expected him to sacrifice himself. Ms. Rowling, you’ve tricked us again.

    Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk
    This novel is an oral biography of protagonist Buster Landru “Rant” Casey, who has died. The reader gathers that Rant lived in a dystopian future where lower class citizens, called “nighttimers,” engaged in an activity called “Party Crashing,” a demolition derby where the crashers slam into each other in cars. The catch: if you crash in the right mental state, you’ll travel backwards in time. Rant disappears during Party Crashing, so his friends assume he’s time traveling. It takes some piecing together to figure out that Rant has been traveling back through time, raping his ancestors every thirteen years in an effort to become a superhuman. He isn’t one character; he is many. You can’t make this stuff up, but I guess Palahniuk did.

    Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
    Anna Karenina is about a lot of stuff, but the heart of the story lies with Anna and her downward spiral from captivating spitfire to insecure shell of a woman. The book is beautifully written. Much of its pleasure comes from the character studies and quiet plotting. Then, in one of the most shocking moments in literature, Anna throws herself under a train and dies and you are stupefied. One of my friends always says, of Anna Karenina, “if you only read one ‘old’ book in your whole life, have it be this one.” Agreed.

    Something Happened, by Joseph Heller
    You’ll spend more than 400 pages reading about not much happening, rolling around in the protagonist’s brain as he goes to work, cares for his son, and fantasizes about the secretary. I can’t tell you what happens, though. That would ruin the book completely. 

    Kidding, obviously. The whole point, here, is to ruin your enjoyment of surprising books!

    Slocum’s son is a weakling because Slocum never made him go to gym class. This son gets hit by a car. In sadness and despair, Slocum hugs him to death. I mean that very literally, not the new kind of “literally.” Slocum hugs his son until he dies from squeezing. 

    Even with the surprises spoiled, reading these books is still a worthwhile endeavor. You’re going to read all of them, right? What’s the best book twist you’ve ever read?

    The post DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Lauren Passell 1:30 pm on 2017/07/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , chuck palahniuk, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever 

    Warning: if you like to be surprised, stop reading right now. Get a glass of water or look at Buzzfeed or start working on your memoir.

    But if you’re curious about these books and their kick-to-the-stomach endings, then by all means, read on. (Because I’m not completely cruel, I’ve whited out the spoilers—just highlight the empty space to see the hidden words.)

    Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

    The Sinner, by Petra Hammesfahr
    One of the best examples of a “whydunnit” in recent years, German author Hammesfahr’s twisty novel (soon to air as a miniseries on USA starring Jessica Biel) is largely told in flashback after Cora Bender, a seemingly normal mother and housewife, inexplicably stabs a man to death while on a beach picnic with her family. Cora confesses readily and claims to have no idea why she just committed homicide—but a patient policeman thinks there’s more to the story, and slowly susses out the truth—Cora’s younger sister was born extremely ill, and her mother became obsessed with caring for her, forcing her father to share a room with Cora, resulting in a creepily close relationship between the two that comes as close to abuse as possible without crossing that final line. Her sister Magdalena isn’t as innocent as she seems—despite her frailty, she manipulates Cora and also has an intensely, inappropriately intimate relationship with her. When Cora is 19, she takes Magdalena with her to meet a boy and his friends, not realizing that Magdalena is near death and wishes to die. Two of the boys rape Cora while the third has sex with Magdalena—who dies during the act, a specific piece of music playing on the radio. When Cora freaks out, one of the boys hits her in the head with an ashtray, and to cover up the crime, they hold Cora captive for six months. Years later, when the music plays again at the beach, Cora snaps, and strikes out with a knife.

    Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
    In Ender’s Game, the survival of the human race depends on Ender Wiggin, the child genius recruited for military training by the government… But while you (and Ender) believe he is fighting in mind simulation, in truth, he’s been  manipulated into fighting a real war, and actually killing the enemies, called buggers. He moves to a new colony planet with his sister, where he discovers that the buggers have created a space just for him. They didn’t know humans had intelligence, and they want to communicate with him. They show him what the war looked like from their point of view, and Ender and the buggers meet a point of understanding. He vows to live with them in peace, starts a new kind of religion, and writes a Bible-like book about the buggers, signing it Speaker For The Dead, which is a perfect segue into the Ender’s Game sequel.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    Atonement is about misinterpretation and its repercussions. Briony observes her big sister Cecilia and Cecilia’s friend Robbie flirting and assumes something shameful has happened between them. She accuses Robbie of rape, and Robbie goes to jail. The story then follows Cecilia and Robbie as they go to war, fall in love, and wind up together forever. But at the end of the novel, you discover that Briony is actually the book’s narrator—and she’s been lying to you, too. She did accuse Robbie of rape, and he was jailed, but C & R didn’t live happily ever after together, after all. They both died in the war. Briony just wrote a happy ending for them to atone for her sins. That’s what she says, anyway. I’m not sure I believe anything she says anymore.

    And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
    Most Agatha Christie novels leave you gobsmacked (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, anyone?) But And Then There Were None is an absolute masterpiece of the whodunnit? formula. People invited to a party in a mansion keep on being murdered, but by whom? Well, if you’re sure you want to know…it was Judge Wargrave! Swaddled in a red curtain, he fakes his own death so that you, the reader, assume the murderer is someone else. But in a written confession at the end of the novel, you learn that he invited people to a desolate island in order to kill them one by one as punishment for the terrible things they’d done (and thought they got away with). Agatha, you sneak!

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    In Gone Girl, husband and wife Nick and Amy tell the story of their tumultuous marriage. We read what we think is Amy’s diary, and it condemns Nick as a violent jerk. We start to believe that Nick is responsible for Amy’s disappearance and possible death. But in a series of twists, the truth is revealed—Amy and Nick are both liars. Nick was having an affair, and Amy has been alive all along, on the lam, trying to frame Nick for her death. What we thought was her diary is actually a cunning trap: it’s a piece of fiction Amy wrote for the police to find. Amy kills a friend and returns to Nick, pregnant with his child, claiming she was kidnapped. Nick takes her back even though he knows the truth. In the end, Amy says she’s getting ready to become a mom by writing her abduction story. She should hang out with Briony.

    Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
    Rebecca begins with one of the most mesmerizing first lines in literature—“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Things only get more interesting from there. The unnamed protagonist marries Maxim de Winter and moves into his home, called Manderley. She struggles to live up to the legend of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, who was seemingly perfect. Mrs. Danvers, the maid, almost gets the protagonist to kill herself in despair. But one day, divers find a sunken sailboat that belonged to Rebecca, revealing that Rebecca was murdered. Maxim then tells the truth: Rebecca was a wretched woman who had multiple affairs—one, with her cousin, resulted in her pregnancy. When Maxim found out, he killed her. In yet another twist, we find out that Rebecca was lying to Maxim—she wasn’t pregnant, but was actually dying of a terminal illness. In the end Old Danvers burns the joint down and disappears. As for Maxim and the protagonist? Happily ever after.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In Howard Koch’s The Dinner, two brothers and their wives sit down for a meal to discuss the horrific crime committed by their sons. The cousins have been caught on camera attacking a sleeping homeless woman in an ATM, throwing trash and a container of gasoline at her, and then burning her to death. Koch makes it clear that the family is bonded by a common sociopathology. The family argues over what to do. Serge, a politician, wants to come clean about the boys’ crime. Enraged by Serge’s stance, his sister-in-law Claire attacks him, disfiguring his face. Claire urges her nephews to “take care” of Beau, Serge and Babette’s adopted son, who witnessed the crime and is blackmailing the boys by threatening to reveal what they did. At the end of the novel, Beau is missing, and one of the cousins comes home covered in blood and mud. Wonder what happened to him?

    Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows, by J.K. Rowling
    In J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final installment in the Harry Potter series, it’s revealed that Harry is a Horcrux, and must be killed before Voldemort can be. Viewing Snape’s memories in the Pensieve, Harry sees Snape talking to Dumbledore and finds out that Snape’s been his protector all this time. Snape loved Harry’s mother, Lily Potter, and spent his entire life spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Dumbledore had been steering Harry to sacrifice himself for the larger good. Good and evil are blurred once again when Harry survives and learns that Dumbledore loved him, even if he expected him to sacrifice himself. Ms. Rowling, you’ve tricked us again.

    Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk
    This novel is an oral biography of protagonist Buster Landru “Rant” Casey, who has died. The reader gathers that Rant lived in a dystopian future where lower class citizens, called “nighttimers,” engaged in an activity called “Party Crashing,” a demolition derby where the crashers slam into each other in cars. The catch: if you crash in the right mental state, you’ll travel backwards in time. Rant disappears during Party Crashing, so his friends assume he’s time traveling. It takes some piecing together to figure out that Rant has been traveling back through time, raping his ancestors every thirteen years in an effort to become a superhuman. He isn’t one character; he is many. You can’t make this stuff up, but I guess Palahniuk did.

    Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
    Anna Karenina is about a lot of stuff, but the heart of the story lies with Anna and her downward spiral from captivating spitfire to insecure shell of a woman. The book is beautifully written. Much of its pleasure comes from the character studies and quiet plotting. Then, in one of the most shocking moments in literature, Anna throws herself under a train and dies and you are stupefied. One of my friends always says, of Anna Karenina, “if you only read one ‘old’ book in your whole life, have it be this one.” Agreed.

    Something Happened, by Joseph Heller
    You’ll spend more than 400 pages reading about not much happening, rolling around in the protagonist’s brain as he goes to work, cares for his son, and fantasizes about the secretary. I can’t tell you what happens, though. That would ruin the book completely. 

    Kidding, obviously. The whole point, here, is to ruin your enjoyment of surprising books!

    Slocum’s son is a weakling because Slocum never made him go to gym class. This son gets hit by a car. In sadness and despair, Slocum hugs him to death. I mean that very literally, not the new kind of “literally.” Slocum hugs his son until he dies from squeezing. 

    Even with the surprises spoiled, reading these books is still a worthwhile endeavor. You’re going to read all of them, right? What’s the best book twist you’ve ever read?

    The post DO NOT READ THIS POST: The 10 Biggest Book Spoilers, Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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