REVIEW : Twilight By William Gay

Twilight By William Gay

I have one word that perfectly describes this book : Atmospheric. Sure there’s a bunch of other words that spring to mind, like creepy, dark and vaguely disturbing, but most of all its atmospheric.

Twilight is set in Tennessee in the 1950’s and revolves around two teenage siblings, Corrie and Kenneth Tyler who make a gristly discovery upon digging up their father’s grave. The discovery makes them suspicious of the local undertaker, Fenton Breece, so they dig up further graves and find that their bootlegger father isn’t the only corpse that has been defiled. The two are determined to find evidence to get Breece locked away, so Kenneth (called simply Tyler throughout the book) steals a briefcase from Brecce’s car. When they discover what is in the suitcase they concoct a plan to blackmail Breece, but Breece doesn’t buy that they won’t turn him in after he’s paid up, so he hires local nutjob Granville Sutter (who has gotten off murder charges several times by intimidating the jury) to silence the Tylers and get back the contents of the case. This leads to a deadly chase, with Tyler fleeing into the Harrikin, the untamed woods of the area.
The Harrikin feels like another main character in this book, which is what makes it so atmospheric – the setting feels like a living breathing entity. William Gay uses language in a really beautiful way, not necessarily using beautiful words, but describing using a really unique style, almost like poetry. One line I really enjoyed was this:
“A cold updraft off subterranean waters came like breath from an ancient tomb, and he dreamed inkblack rivers coursing in the stone veins of the earth where chunks of ice black as obsidian clocked through the dark and where whatever arcane creatures lived were unsighted and at the mercy of the current.”
I must’ve read that line three or more times because it had amazing imagery and was quite chilling for such an innocent part of the story. This was a common theme in Twilight, It easily drifted from simple, harmless descriptions of the landscape, to strange dream sequences and possible ghostly happenings. On the spine of my library-borrowed copy was a sticker with a little black ghost, indicating that this book belong to the genre of ghost stories, and this puzzled me at first. Now I’ve finished the story I still am not quite sure if Ghost Story is a fitting category for it – Twilight doesn’t seem to fit into any category. I would perhaps call it Southern Gothic, but I haven’t read enough books from that genre to say for sure. To me it felt like a demented fairy tale…in a good way. This was mainly because of the host of strange characters that Tyler comes across on his “journey” through the Harrikin to find a lawyer in a neighbouring town that will believe his story. It is in the descriptions of these fleeting characters that Gay once again excels. Bookbinder, an old man who Tyler stops to talk to and get directions is described thus:
“Arthritis had seized his eighty-year-old knees, and on the steeper hillsides he looked not unlike some gaunt puppet jerked along by an inept or careless puppeteer who’d lost interest in him”
And an old witch-woman he meets is described like this:
“A tiny gnomish woman who’d come no higher than his chest, a dried and fragile elf of indetiminate but advanced age who seemed light and delicate as the fluted bones of birds found in the woods. Dressed all in homedyed black like the sole survivor of some obscure sect she’d outlived here in this lost wood, with foxes for lapdogs and whippoorwills nesting in her henhouse.”
Twilight  is filled with vivid language like this, and the dialogue has no quotation marks so it has equal importance to the descriptions instead of either taking over (although it is sometimes confusing keeping track of who is saying what).
I also really enjoyed the language used by the characters – good ole 1950’s Southern talk 🙂
Twilight is a creepy story, and is a lot to take in, but If you’re willing to give it a go and you love language, then it is well worth it.
I give Twilight by William Gay:

4 ½ / 5 Stars

Advertisements

REVIEW: Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead

Zombie: An Anthology Of The Undead

I’ve been reading this collection of short stories on and off for nine weeks, not because they aren’t good, but because sometimes reading stories about zombies gets a bit too creepy (especially at night or after eating – ew).

The stories are a lot more diverse than I was expecting. There are apocalyptic ones; ones where zombies are created to work for the living; a story of Lazarus; a voodoo zombie story; stories where people choose to become zombies; stories of people who love zombies; people who have sex with zombies; mindless zombies; fully functioning zombies; and a whole lot more.
Some of the stories were straight out gross or disturbing or violent, but others were really bittersweet or thought-provoking and a couple were really funny. I was surprised about the big moral issues brought up in many of the stories too. Questions of a person’s rights after death and whether the walking dead can feel pain or should be treated with respect arose in many of the stories. A lot of them also made me think about humanity and how we act in disasters, which is what a zombie plague is in essence. In several of the stories humans (live ones that is) were the real monsters, using the fact that zombies were already dead and sometimes violent as an excuse to fulfill their own sick violent tendencies, and some of them made me feel really sick because there is people out there that would act that way and the situations were almost like a spooky prophecy of the future.
My favourite stories were:
Family Business by Jonathan Maberry.
One of the stories that showed the darker side of humanity – the kind that tortures zombies for fun and sport – while also being one of the bittersweet stories, one of an older brother teaching his 15-year-old brother the “family business” and along the way changing his perceptions of the dead and the living and the thin line between.
The Zombie Who Fell from the Sky by M. B. Homler
The only story which made me laugh out loud throughout. It had really snappy one-liners and events that were ridiculously humourous kind of like Shaun of the Dead but more like a graphic novel played out in text – very visual and fast paced.
The Storm Door by Tad Williams
A really interesting story, especially considering most of it played out as a conversation between the main character, a paranormal detective and his ailing godfather. I liked this one because unlike a lot of the others, zombies are smart, cunning and powerfully evil and how the dead bodies rise is explained (basically they are possessed by a kind of ghost/demon that enters as the departing spirit is leaving its body).
Second Wind by Mike Carey
This story was unique as it was about a man who chose to turn into a zombie and then hide away from humanity. The main character is a stock-broker who has already had a couple of stress-induced heart attacks and fears his next one will be his last so he outfits an old building and organises his money in preparation for his death. I enjoyed it because besides being dead and having to takes precautions against decomposition, the zombie in this story was the same as he was living and continued his life to some extent.
Weaponized by David Wellington
In this story dead soldiers are being used in combat, being controlled by chips inserted at the top of the spinal column with preset directions such as walking or picking something up that can be administered remotely. This one was really fascinating because the “zombies” weren’t technically living dead but more like dead people turned into robots.
The story that creeped me out the most was:
Kids and Their Toys by James A. Moore
Only one word can describe this story: *shudder*. It was the creepiest and most disgusting of all, maybe for the fact that the horrible immoral humans in it were children.
And then there was one story that seemed totally out-of-place because as far as I could see it had  nothing to do with zombies at all O.O :
Shooting Pool by Joe R. Lansdale
I finished that one completely baffled – why was it even included?
Overall I really enjoyed this anthology, and I would recommend it to zombie movie lovers, or lovers of good horror stories 🙂
I give Zombie: an Anthology of the Dead:

4 ½ / 5 Stars

The OTHER Twilight and another Dead

Twilight

I contemplated doing an April Fools post about reading Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and raving about how good it was (which to anyone who knows me and my anti-twihard stance would be a good gag) but even thinking about it made me cringe a bit so I didn’t bother 😛

One of the new books I started last night is called Twilight but it is a world away from the tween vamp-romance. From what is written in the blurb and cover reviews, which includes quotes like:
‘It seems the local undertaker, Fenton Breece, has been playing sinister games with the town’s dead.’ – Blurb.
,
‘This is Southern Gothic of the very darkest hue…To be read in broadest daylight.’ – Kate Saunders, The Times. 
and

It is doubtful a more brilliant or more sinister adult fairy tale will be written this year.’ – Tom Cox, Daily Mail.

and with what i’ve read so far, I know I’m in for a wild (and creepy) ride 🙂

Coincidently, the other book I’ve started is also a Southern story, and promises to also be a wild ride:

From Dead to Worse

YAY! The next Sookie Stackhouse book 🙂 I only read the prologue last night, and I know this one is going to be a wild ride for two reasons:

  1. The prologue was a re-cap of what happened in the last book which if you read my review of All Together Dead  you will know ended quite dramatically. The previous books haven’t needed a prologue to re-cap, so I’m anticipating a rollercoaster ride with this one 😉
  2. The blurb ended like this:

‘And when the fur has finished flying and the cold blood has stopped flowing, Sookie’s world will be forever altered…’

O.O oh boy.