Vampires, witches, warlocks, shapeshifters, mutants, silver toothed evil fairies – all the weird stuff. That’s just a short list of the characters that populate the books I’ve been reading lately.
But let me make it quite clear right at the outset. These are not the usual type of books that I like to read. Not at all! I would normally steer well clear of them.
One of my kids likes to watch that horrid zombie series – Undead I think it’s called. Why, I don’t know. He has to watch in daytime, preferably with someone else ‘cos it’s too scary alone in the dark. I once agreed to sit with him. Never again! That experience has coloured my view, and confirmed my opinion of avoiding the weird horror, vampiry stuff.
However, I have made some really good friends during my year and a bit of blogging. Most of us bloggers are avid readers. Sort of goes with the territory given that we all write stuff! One thing has led to another. Questions asked about what sort of books we read. Recommendations made. “You gotta read this! You’ll love it!!” Enter: the story world of the weird stuff.
So I reluctantly agreed and dipped my toe into a genre that I would normally avoid – like the plague. The first of them was the Sookie Stackhouse series. You heard me! The vampires of True Blood fame. I ordered them from the library. I read all sixteen of them. Haven’t watched a single episode of the televised series which I’m told is different.
To my surprise I quite enjoyed them. Even got to like some of the cold blooded vampire heroes. Learnt a LOT about the life of vampires, what makes them tick. And again, surprisingly, found that the story was not all blood and guts and gore. Did you know for example that vampires find fairies irresistible? But they are terrified of them. ‘Cos the fairies have silver tipped teeth which are deadly to vampires. And they are rather partial to snacking on them. And did you know that in the world of Sookie Stackhouse, where vampires had ‘come out’ they sold artificial blood in bottles. The best was True Blood. You drink it warm of course.
The next experience of weirdness reading was – different. Again, recommended as a ‘must read’ follow on from the Sookie saga given that I had enjoyed it. I was told it was in a similar vein, but different. It had vampires and supernatural beings.
It’s a BIG book. Well, probably no bigger than the 16 Sookie’s put together. Wikipedia summarises the plot very well : ‘The Passage begins in the near future and details an apocalyptic and, later, post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by vampire-like beings who are infected by a highly contagious virus. What begins as a project to develop a new immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by an unnamed species of bat in South America eventually becomes the virus that transforms the world. The novel begins in 2016 and spans more than ninety years, as colonies of humans attempt to live in a world filled with superhuman creatures who are continually on the hunt for fresh blood.’
There it is – blood again! Only this time it comes with blood and guts, death, doom, terror and the end of the world. By the time I was reading this book, I had decided I would persevere. It might even grow on me. Well, it did and it didn’t. I was more than half way through and still undecided whether I liked it or not. I quite liked some of the characters so that kept me involved just to see what would happen to them. TRH asked several times what I thought of it. I don’t know! It’s one of those that you start and you just have to keep reading to see what happens. It’s sort of sci-fi’y but you’d like it ‘cos it’s all about the end of the world.
So he read it too. And like me, it took him a while to warm to it. And like me, he didn’t like the ending either! In fact, when I finished it, I distinctly recall slamming book the down and saying That just sucks! (except not quite in those words – to my shame I used a ruder version…)
And last but not least – I am now reading another BIG book. Not exactly recommended, but mentioned as a book that was enjoyed more than The Lord of The Rings. In similar vein, but better. OK, that sounded interesting. I had enjoyed the movie but never read Tolkien’s original. Or rather, I had started and found it tedious going so gave up. So I ordered that one from the library too.
Now this one is REALLY WEIRD! I mean REALLY, REALLY WEIRD!! I am pushing myself to read it. It’s hard going but I’m persevering. Currently I’m about a third of the way through. Because I am curious to see just how much weirder it will get. And I don’t know that it’s even possible for it to get weirder. That opinion is not shared universally as Mervyn Peake is a highly lauded and respected author, book illustrator, poet. But… it’s weird. Seriously. The fantasy trilogy tells the story of the 77th Earl of Groan who lives in his crumbling castle, Gormenghast, populated by – well, lots of strange people.
I’d like to regale you with just a small taste of it. But before I do let me fill you in on a bit of background. His Lordship, Lord Sepulchrave, Earl of Groan, has had a major setback to his health. After his library of beloved precious books burnt down (a deliberate but secret act of arson orchestrated by the evil Steerpike, an interloper) he rapidly descends into madness. His daughter Fuchsia finds him in his bedroom perched on his mantlepiece –
‘Flay (his Lordship’s first personal servant) clenching his hands, moves into the room, the hair standing out rigidly like little wires all over his scanty flesh. Something had crumpled up inside him. His undeviating loyalty to the House of Groan and to his Lordship is fighting with the horror of what he sees….His Lordship is dressed in black. His knees are drawn up almost to his chin. His long, white hands are curled slightly inwards as they hang over his knees, between which, and his supported chin, the wrists are wedged. But it is the eyes which strike a chill to the centre of those who watch, for they have become circular....(the doctor is fetched) …Prunesquallor, in his lime-green dressing-gown (and matching slippers) is pacing to and fro before the mantlepiece with the stealth of some vertical cat. Not for a moment does he take his eyes off the Earl, who, still upon the mantelpiece, watches the physician with great eyes…The Doctor (with Steerpike’s help) dragging him from his perch… and together they carry the sacrosanct body to the bed and turn it over upon its face… and the Doctor sticks a slim needle into his Lordship’s wrist and injects a drug of such weird potency that when they turn the patient over Steerpike is startled to see that the face has changed to a kind of chalky green. But the eyes have altered also and are once more the sober, thoughtful, human eyes which the Castle knew so well. His fingers have uncurled; the claws are gone.’ His Lordship had shapeshifted into an owl.
There’s LOTS more weirdness, but this owl thing really got to me. Apologies to those who love Mervyn Peake’s weirdness. At this stage I am still not sure how much more of this book will be read before it is returned to the hallowed halls of the local library.
© Raili Tanska
Images – Goodreads, Wikipedia