Inspection

I am a huge fan of Josh Malerman’s work. I’ve read everything of his that I can get my hands on including Bird Box, Black Mad Wheel, Unbury Carol, and A House at the Bottom of the Lake and can’t wait to see what he has in store for us with the Bird Box sequel, coming out this fall (last I heard). He’s one of those authors that when I hear he has a book coming out, I make reading it a priority. Bird Box is still my favorite, but Inspection is his best since.

J is an Alphabet Boy. Raised in a turret with 25 other boys (one for each letter of the alphabet), he only knows his small world comprised of only men. The boys, their instructors, and their father figure, D.A.D., live together in a tower. D.A.D. is convinced that the opposite sex causes boys to neglect their studies, which in turn, makes them less productive members of society. So, he creates an experiment to eliminate that distraction. Women don’t exist in the boys’ world. They are told they were born from trees, are educated in traditional subjects, and show tremendous abilities.

However, not everyone is on board with this idea. D.A.D hired a man to write propaganda for the boys in the form of children’s novels, but this man knows what D.A.D. is doing is wrong and creates his own book, hands it out to the boys, and some read it, learning of women for the first time. Once that happens, they are deemed “spoiled rotten” and sent to THE CORNER, which is the scariest place for them. Every day these boys go through an “inspection” to check their bodies and minds for outside influence. They play an honesty game called Boats complete with nodes they place on themselves.

Halfway through the book, there is a giant reveal. I’m sad to say this reveal was in the book jacket summary, which was a bummer because I wish I hadn’t known it was coming. This book had a very 1984 feel to it.  J begins to realize there’s more to life than this tower, but he’s unsure what that means. The boys are blind followers of D.A.D., never questioning his authority, THE CORNER is so much like Room 101 that the parallels are downright obvious. All of these examples made me love the book even more. Once I got to the ending, there was no putting his book down. I was rooting for J to figure everything out and then quite crushed as his world kept collapsing under him, little by little, the curtain pulled back more and more. D.A.D. is an excellent villain, leaping off the page, and watching his transformation from bad to worse is simply horrifying. Another excellent novel from Malerman. Hopefully, it tides me over until the Bird Box sequel.

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A House at the Bottom of the Lake

Back on Prime Day, Amazon was giving its members a subscription to Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents. I jumped right on this deal and figured I would be able to find something from my hundreds of books long wish list that was available on Unlimited. I clicked on every single title (Amazon needs to make some changes to what info you can see on the wish lists) and found that 11 of them were on Unlimited. I also learned that you can only borrow 10 titles at a time.

I sorted the titles by length to create an order in which to read them, and this little novella ended up first. I’m a HUGE fan of the author, Josh Malerman. I’ve read and reviewed Bird Box and Black Mad Wheel and Unbury Carol and loved them all, Bird Box being my favorite. I was really excited to dive (pun intended) into this one.

James and Amelia are teenagers who are on a first date boating on a lake. They take a few harrowing narrow tunnels and find a hidden lake. As they paddle around, they notice there’s a house below the water. They hold their breaths, dive, and look around. It appears as if the house has been lived in with fixtures, furniture, knick-knacks, and working lights. Yep, under the water.  Clearly, something fishy (yep, pun intended again) is going on.

The teens can’t get enough of the house. They are magnetically drawn to it, getting scuba gear, and making their explorations just about every day. The power the house has over them begins to invade their “away from the lake” lives. I loved this book. After Bird Box, this was my favorite story of Malerman’s. He is such a great slow-burn horror writer. Instead of gore, he pulls in with suspense and mystery. I look forward to reading a lot more from this talented guy.

Unbury Carol

I read Bird Box after a friend recommended it to me. That book scared the crap out of me. One of the most suspenseful books I’ve ever read. I read it in one day and absolutely loved it. So when Black Mad Wheel came out, I snatched it up immediately. Another great one, although different from Bird Box. And here we are with Josh Malerman’s newest, Unbury Carol. Again, a great one, and again, nothing like the previous two. I really like that Malerman isn’t getting sucked into one genre. They are all in the horror idea but have enough variations between them that I feel like he’s doing a great job of uncovering his abilities.

Unbury Carol is a fairy tale meets western concept. Taking place in the 1800s (probably, it never says, but it’s before there are cars, so it’s a plausible guess), we meet Carol who has an unusual affliction. She goes into a coma and appears dead. Since this is before any kind of technology, the doctors think she is dead because her heart only beats a couple times a minute and her breath doesn’t fog up a mirror like it should. Her entire life, Carol’s mother has protected her while in the coma, or Howltown as Carol calls it, tending to her and keeping her safe. Carol’s mother died, Carol got married, and now Carol is in Howltown, her husband has decided to bury her and be done with her forever. He *knows* she’s alive, but he wants her money.

Unfortunately for him, Carol’s ex-love (also an outlaw….because this is a western, remember) hears of this plan, knows Carol is alive and is on his way to save her. The husband gets wind of this and dispatches a hitman to dispense with the ex-love. Let me tell you. This hitman, Smoke, is one of the best characters I’ve stumbled across in quite some time. He jumps right off the page. A villain to the core, but his scenes are unforgettable. Anyway, the ex-love in one the way, Carol needs to be buried quickly before she wakes up from the coma, the hitman is on the path as well, lots of things need to happen in a certain order for all this to work out in the husband’s favor.

The plot isn’t as complicated as my terrible summary makes it sound. I’m not much of a writer 😉 But I absolutely recommend this book, along with all Malerman’s other books. I’ve read enough of his work to know I will keep reading anything he publishes.

 

Black Mad Wheel

Bird Box is one of the creepiest books I’ve read in years. I read it in one day then barely slept that night. It’s a book I recommend to everyone. So when I heard the author, Josh Malerman, had a new book coming out, I immediately requested my library buy it. And, although it isn’t as good as Bird Box, it was still really enjoyable, creepy, and worth the read.

The format of the book isn’t exactly chronological. The perspective shifts from past to present in alternating chapters. In the past (1950sish period), we meet Philip Tonka and his band mates, The Danes who have been recruited by the US Government to investigate a sound that has been heard in Africa. The sound is debilitating and renders all weapons useless. The government wants the Danes to go in and investigate, partly because they all have war experience and because, with their musical backgrounds, they know sounds.

Present day (still 1950s, but happening currently to the characters) Philip is in a hospital room, nearly every bone in his body broken, The Danes’ whereabouts unknown, waking up from a 6 month long coma. We meet his doctors and nurses and see the speed in which Philip is recovering, so clearly there is something mysterious going on.

I am a fan of this storytelling format. Malerman used the same thing in Bird Box, and it worked great. The suspense build up absolutely works. Two stories paralleling into their climax makes for a double hit of terror. The only downfall of this book (and this is simply personal preference) is that this story didn’t scare me like Bird Box did. That book is easily the third scariest book I’ve ever read (The Shining and Let the Right One In being the other two). That is the only reason why I say I liked Bird Box better. (totally unrelated side note, but if anyone important happens to stumble upon this and if there is a Bird Box movie made, PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEAAAAASE, for the love of Pete, don’t show the creatures. It would be so much better that way.)

Malerman is an author I look forward to reading. He has another book, published between these two, that I need to get my hands on! If it’s anything like the other two, I know I will love it.

Bird Box

I read a book today. Yes, the whole book. This doesn’t happen very often. I rarely have time to read an entire book in one day. And this one was short, so that helped a bit. But, MY GOSH. My heart is still pounding after this one. Never have I been so terrified over an unknown entity.

I just don’t even know where to begin. A friend recommended this book to me ages ago. And I just never made it a priority. But I added it to my “must read in 2016” list and got it from the library. And I nicely fits into my “book you can read in a day” category without being a lame novella, which feels like cheating. Anyway, aforementioned friend and I have similar tastes, and she has yet to lead me astray in a book. Well, that’s not true. Her favorite book is The Poisonwood Bible. Ugh. What a downer. That one aside, she has done well in her recommendations. And this one takes the cake.

Told in past vs present alternating(ish) chapters, you learn about the epidemic/apocalypse/terror that has swept the world. No one knows exactly what it is because anyone who sees it is immediately driven mad and kills himself. Is is even a visible being? Is it foreign? Is it a creature? Does it even matter?

The growing tenseness of this book is what makes it great. Because seeing this entity is what makes you insane, the characters must remain blind. Blackout curtains taped to the walls, doors locked tight, and blindfolds outside. Both past and present stories parallel in their intensity. The heart pounding moments blur together from both plots. As a brand new author, Josh Malerman weaves this frenzy perfectly. You think you’ll get a small break from your nerves when you switch from past to present to past, etc, but no. Each chapter provides its own set of terrors.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. One of the best I’ve read in a long time. It will be awhile before I can get to sleep tonight. I will keep thinking about that scene in the attic. Oh. My.