Hollywood horrors, entities from beyond the grave, and body horror mutations: these can be found within my recent reads which I’ll be sharing with you, dear reader. For this edition of my book review, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on not one but three horror books from my personal collection. Without further ado, let’s dig in!
Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker
Horror legend Clive Barker gives us a ghost story not quite like any other in this one. A rising Hollywood star hides from the spotlight after a botched surgery that leaves him disfigured. Hiding away in a remote home, he encounters ghosts of Hollywood past, among other dark things.
Mr. Barker’s reputation for world-building shines through in this one as he goes above and beyond a simple ghost story. It has the twisted blood and sexuality readers have come to expect from his novels. He has crafted almost an episodic novel with a story that expands more and more as we go along. Sadly, that also comes as a disservice as the book can more often than sometimes feel bloated. One chunk of the story would end, and it would seem like a logical conclusion but then you see there’s a good hundred-something pages to go. It doesn’t help that the main character for the most part isn’t someone I felt worth rooting for, or is that interesting to follow. What saved the book for me were the women that the novel eventually focused on, and we get to see how they develop over time to become compelling.
Scry for Help by Aaron Eischeid
This one is a novella about Nate, who is grieving the death of his boyfriend, Jamie. Out of sadness and loss, he finds a way to tap into the “other side” but things may not be what they seem. Nate may have unleashed something more dangerous than he anticipated.
I really loved this one. When you think about it, it’s a simple premise of a person wanting a second chance with a deceased loved one but sh*t goes wrong. However, author Aaron Eischeid’s blossoming prose and hauntingly hallucinatory imagery raise this one from the usual supernatural horror fare. For a book of its length, it felt like it packed a lot of punch into it in terms of character development and scares. It’s the kind of stuff that would be hard to put successfully in a film.
Nate is a nuanced character in such a way that we can feel the pain and loss he is going through. At the same time, we also see him as a flawed person, making dangerous decisions because of his grief. We also get side characters who want to be there for Nate in their own way, and I thought they were appropriately developed.
The hauntings are described almost like they are paintings come to life, warping and spreading. It really was some trippy stuff that’d be hard to put onscreen. Serious kudos to author Aaron Eischeid as these scenes are some of what grabbed me the most.
Naturally, it’s done with tremendous effectivity in literary form. I did feel like there are a few hiccups here and there when it comes to tackling some side characters, but it didn’t really feel like it negatively impacted the main narrative so I still walked away with a fresh reading experience.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
On an island called Raxter, a boarding school filled with young girls has been standing for a few years. The island, including those within the school, have been affected by what’s known as the Tox: changing, shaping, and mutating the girls. When young Hetty is put into a new position, things begin to change.
This one is a YA novel, and it is definitely written with that audience in mind. However, this does not mean the power this book has is diminished when read through an adult lens. Ms. Powers’ characters are morally complex and compelling. The pacing of the book is fast and it’s easy to get into the prose but it is nevertheless poignant at several points. For example, we get some scenes describing in graphic detail how a character’s mutation came to be, how they’ve come to live with it, how their comrades have helped them come to terms with it. It is not a novel just preaching a lecture at you. It does not shy away from the grit and grue, despite being YA with scenes of body horror and vicious attacks by the girls themselves and the creatures that have been mutated by the Tox. That said, it’s still interesting to see such a heart-wrenching story of friendship unfold with characters that go above archetypes.
And that’s it! Not a bad set and not bad first books I’ve read from these authors. You can find these books on Amazon. I found Scry for Help there, while I found Coldheart Canyon at a second-hand book store, and Wilder Girls on Shopee, an online store here in the Philippines. Cheers!
Dustin is a horror fan and sometimes short story writer who hails from the Philippines. He likes a lot of the horror genre but usually goes for slashers and arthouse/slowburn stuff. Currently, he’s trying to make up for lost time in the horror literature world by digesting as many horror books as he can.