Archive for the 'Tales of Terror' Category

1984 by George Orwell

Friday, October 17th, 2008

In preparation for a book discussion scheduled for November, I recently reread George Orwell’s short but enormously thought-provoking novel, 1984. Orwell wrote the novel in 1948, a post-war year when the world was clouded by uncertainty and the Soviet Union posed a threat that was not yet understood but was feared by intellectuals, who worried that a totalitarian state could rob its citizens of their individuality and of all human rights.

I had not revisited this book in many years, but once again I found myself caught up in its premises and amazed by its author’s foresight and his ability to engage readers’ interest in a future so fraught with frightening possibilities. Like many others, I had read the book long before the title date and so did not observe that New Year’s with the grim expectation of the fulfillment of Orwell’s prophecy. After all, the 80s were the Reagan Years, when the stock markets were flourishing and for savers, interest rates were soaring. The American middle class was too caught up in consuming to give much thought to the ultimate cost of our extravagance. We had credit cards, and few of us gave any heed to the notion that each time we used those cards we were leaving a trail of our personal lives. We had given unseen eyes permission to track our buying habits, our organization memberships, our reading preferences, and even our choices of causes to support. Most frightening of all, we made it possible for unscrupulous thieves to steal our identities. In all too many cases, some were able to live la dolce vita at the expense of honest citizens.

Since 9/11/2001, when our peace was disturbed by terrorists determined to destroy our way of life, we have seen even more of our liberties jeopardized. What we once took for granted is now under attack. Most of us agree that the steps taken to protect us are necessary for our safety, but when we are subjected to those procedures. Endless lines at check-in booths at airports make us cranky, and at times we question the methods of the personnel trained to provide the scrutiny of passengers. Of course, we all agree that we wish that these measures had been in place on the fateful September morning, but that is in the past and we are inclined to be future-oriented.

One of the main themes of 1984 is that in the totalitarian regime that has taken over rule of Oceania, the past is irrelevant and only the present is of consequence. Remembrance of things past is dangerous because only acceptance of what is makes us compliant. If citizens could recall “the good old days” of yesterday, they would rebel at the evil of a today without hope for a brighter tomorrow. Just thinking about the past is criminal, but talking about it is even worse.

I recommend that serious thinkers read (or re-read) 1984 as an intellectual exercise. To use a quote inimical to Big Brother, who may or may not be watching us, “Those who refuse to study the past are doomed to repeat it.”

GHOST MOON by Karen Robards

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Truly ghostly is the setting of a swampy lake with drifting fogs and clouds obscuring the moon. Horrific murders of young girls pop in and out of an otherwise mildly interesting story of a young mother, Olivia, and her daughter, Sara, returning to home in Louisiana. They meet some love from a very ill old aunt, and much animosity. An older cousin that was Olivia’s supportive friend in childhood has a daughter, Chloe, who is just as angry and unloved as Olivia was as a girl. Seth, the cousin, persuades Olivia to stay and work in the family business, a boatyard. Although he is already engaged, a romance blossoms between Olivia and Seth. Seth’s business problems are also well described and analyzed.

The story unfolds with more personal attacks on the mother and child by the monster killer. It turns out the killer is an uncle of the family and the author provides a most interesting slant on this demented mind before winding up the story with a happily ever after ending.

It by Stephen King

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

In contrast to scary short stories, the 1138 pages of this book require a time commitment!  Stephen King develops characters that return to the world of childhood by physically going home again.  Fears of childhood are revisited by a group of friends as an evil mystery resurfaces in the town of Derry.  King has a wonderful way of weaving a story in which the reader actually participates in the adventure rather than observes the action.  The action is vivid while gore and terror hides in the shadows. 

Fear manifests itself in many ways throughout Stephen King’s, It.  Surprisingly the most terrifying manifestation is a clown.  It is the emotion of the residents fuels the fear in Derry.  Could it be that the author uses the character of a clown to embody fear because it is difficult to assess the emotions of a clown?

I highly recommend this book along with the made for TV movie also available at your local library on DVD.  You can also check out the plot at the Internet Movie Database

A word of caution …readers who experience Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, may want to consider passing on this spine-tingling offering. 

Whispers in the Night by Tananarive Due and others

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Edited by Randon Massey

Whispers in the Night is a collection of horror and suspense short fiction stories written by new and experienced writers.  The stories are short in length and long on terror.  Long gone are the tales of slow building suspense.  These tales are graphic and focus on mental manipulation and violent acts against mankind. 

Summer sticks with the readers not just because of the leeches in the tale but also due to the rich imagery of the southern swamplands.  I found the character use of a small child in this story unsettling.    Scab has a distinctively ethnic quality as the African-American experience is an integral part of the story.  Ghostwriter and The Love of a Zombie is Everlasting are slightly predictable but should be read on an empty stomach.  The short stories are perfect Halloween reads for today’s hectic pace.

Whispers in the Night was selected from the NextReads Horror newsletter.  NextReads is an email newsletter available from the West Deptford Free Public Library’s website.  Readers can select from many genres from Health and Wellness to Historical Fiction.  NextReads email newsletters provide a way to uncover new titles to expand personal selections from your own desktop.  Sign up today to fill your inbox with new reading suggestions!

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Monday, September 17th, 2007

Tuesday Tea with a Twist
Tuesday, October 30, 2007                   10:00 am

The group is sharing spooky tales. Draft a review of your favorite and bring your review to tea or post it online right here on the West Deptford Reader Reviews Blog. Door prize giveaways will be included in the morning of fun. Support literacy and join in the excitement if you dare! Costumes are optional!

Feel free to email cwood@westdeptford.lib.nj.us to sign up for next meeting or for details on posting reviews.