Dean Koontz, Josh Malerman, James Herbert & Riley Sager (Book Reviews)

Here are some more horror book reviews for October Horror Month. I mostly read Stephen King but did manage to read a few other authors in the past couple of years. Honest! Even read some non-horror, like Dune. But I do mostly stick to this genre for some reason…

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz

I’m a big Dean Koontz fan (did a Top Ten list HERE). Honestly couldn’t remember if I’d read this one years ago but think I only saw the 1977 Julie Christie movie based on it. What was disappointing was that I didn’t realise the version I have is actually one that Koontz later re-wrote to update the technology in it & I assume references to specific actresses. I’m old – I can handle reading about out-dated technology. I’M out-dated technology!

Anyway, this book is interesting as I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of machines taking over. (They will, you know!!). But it’s also creepy & very rape-y so not one I’d recommend easily to absolutely anyone. There’s a real “woman hating” thing going on here, but I think part of the point of the book is the dreaded “toxic masculinity”. I do wonder if that was as much a part of the original book or if Koontz put more of that in to fit more with the topics of today.

My Rating: 3/5

The Taking by Dean Koontz

As I said above, I love Dean Koontz books. Well, okay – I don’t love ALL his books. I sometimes really don’t like one. I didn’t like this one all that much. Not sure why. But, man, is it fucked up! I should love it. I like full-on supernatural weirdness. I have to say that, if it had been made into a movie, it could’ve been a kick ass body horror film! Again, I should like it as I have a weird fascination with body horror films (mainly those from David Cronenberg). I don’t know – I think maybe the characters just weren’t that strong. I usually like Koontz characters (Odd Thomas is great). I’ll give it an extra half a point for Koontz saying fuck it & going fucking crazy with this one.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

This was a strange one. I first read Malerman’s Bird Box, which I really enjoyed (so much more than the movie adaptation!). But I was absolutely blown away by his short story included at the end of that book (Ghastle And Yule). It was brilliant. I loved it so much that I tweeted the author to tell him that (I never really tweet “celebs” because that feels stalker-y & weird). But I think he appreciated the praise. Here’s the synopsis for Black Mad Wheel from Amazon, which sounded amazing so is why I chose it as the next book of his to read: “The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious—and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.

A creepy supernatural story about a rock band? Totally my type of thing! I wanted to like this one more than I did, however. Only Philip Tonka, the band’s front man, gets any character development. The story also doesn’t give much of a resolution if that sort of thing bothers you (I don’t mind that so much, especially with supernatural stories, as I like to sometimes have things left to my own imagination). What the story does have, though, is a lot of originality. It also has a good “vibe”. I don’t know how else to describe that but, especially with his Ghastle And Yule short story, I felt like I was there & could easily picture everything that was happening.

Based on what I’ve read of Malerman’s so far, I’ll definitely be reading more. His stories are unusual & completely unpredictable. I like that. I need more of that. I just want to like his characters a bit more. Likeable characters are always a big thing for me. By the end of Bird Box, I still didn’t like the main character. I want to care about the fate of at least one character… (I should point out that Ghastle And Yule aren’t likeable either but they’re not meant to be. They’re just great characters).

My Rating: 3/5

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

What I like so far about Malerman is that he doesn’t stick to just one genre. For the most part, they’ve all been a little bit on the weird or supernatural side of things (which is right up my alley). This one is kind of a Western but with supernatural elements. I liked it. Probably my third favorite of the three full-length novels I’ve read but I’ve liked all I’ve read so far so am looking forward to reading more of his work.

Here’s the plot synopsis from Amazon: “Only three people know Carol Evers’ secret. Her best friend, who’s dead. Her husband, who hates her. Her ex-lover, who left her. Carol suffers from a dreadful affliction which makes her fall into long comas, waking slumbers indistinguishable from death. Her husband Dwight wants her next “death” to be her last. He will claim her fortune by pronouncing her dead … and burying her alive. The infamous outlaw James Moxie, once Carol’s lover, rides the Trail again – pursued by murder and mayhem – to save the woman he loves. And all the while, Carol is a prisoner in her own body. hearing her funeral plans, summoning every ounce of will to survive…

My Rating: 3/5

Moon by James Herbert

Supernatural horror is my favorite genre to read. This book had been lying around the house for years so I finally read it since libraries have been closed for the past year (Update: I obviously wrote this in 2020). Also, I really liked Herbert’s freaky deaky book The Rats so decided I might as well try a second book of his. The Rats was more fun (but super gross). Moon is about a guy with a psychic connection to some psycho murderer & it’s exactly what you’d expect from this type of story. I’ve read loads of stories like this, so… I don’t have a lot to say. It passed the time & I’ll completely forget it years from now. Kind of like how all the Dean Koontz books I read all meld together in my mind & I honestly never know if I read one years ago or not but I still love to read his stuff…

My Rating: 2.5/5

Final Girls by Riley Sager

This crime mystery horror thriller might be a bit of fluff but I think it would make for a really good slasher flick with a decent “whodunnit” plot. I’d definitely watch that movie! The characters are a bit hateful but, hey, so are most slasher movie characters.

Had fun with this one – it was a real page-turner as I wanted to find out what was going on. I’m impatient when it comes to whodunnits & always read them quickly. It gets a bit silly at the end but I don’t mind that with this sort of thing. Here’s the plot synopsis from Amazon: “FIRST THERE WERE THREE. The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma. THEN THERE WERE TWO. But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or… CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE? All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.

My Rating: 3/5

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