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.

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.