Tag Archives: horror

Read 38 of 2022. Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Title: Mapping the Interior
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
Publisher: Tordotcom
ISBN: 978-0765395108
Genre: Novella, Fantasy
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

For a novella, Jones sure knows how to pack it all in. There is family dysfunctionality (well, if you read it that way which I sure did), there is loneliness, the concept of home, the Native American culture, the way we are raised, some horror as well (quite a lot actually), and the superstitions that surround us.

Mapping the Interior is a story of the protagonist, a sleepwalker, who at fifteen years of age sees the silhouette of his dead father (or at least he thinks it is his father) in the house where he, his mother, and younger brother who suffers from seizures live. Nothing is clear about the father’s death who died mysteriously before the family left the reservation.

In all of this, the boy wants to know more. So, he decides to understand where he came from, where his family came from – their culture and roots but also about the house and its hidden corners and passages, and to comprehend the haunting (if that’s what it is).

Stephen Graham Jones’ writing is beyond superlative. The way he blends coming of age with a supernatural story, and also about what it means to be clueless about identity is staggering, and that too with such brevity. It is so short that it can be devoured in a day, and that was also one of my issues with it – I wish it were longer because it is so good. At the same time, I am also conflicted in thinking that the length is just right for the story Jones wanted to tell. I cannot begin with explore his other books and read them all, one after the other.

Read 27 of 2022. Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung. Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

Title: Cursed Bunny
Author: Bora Chung
Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
Publisher: Honford Star
ISBN: 978-1916277182
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The best part about this book is that you cannot place it under any genre, and yet just to simplify it, I put it under a basic genre, that of short stories. These short stories are not just any run-of-the-mill stories though. There is so much more than what meets the eye.

Horror, magic realism, supernatural, the weird, folklore blending with the contemporary storytelling, and then of course the literary that slow slips into the prose.

Bora Chung’s stories may be bizarre but they after all only reflect the society, we live in. From the loneliness of people that need droids, to the idea of parenthood and self and ultimately how the two interweave, to the exploitation of people in a capitalistic world, each story resonates on different levels.

Yes, the stories are grotesque. Yes, the element of horror in these stories is perhaps a little more, and yes, some narratives may seem similar than most – the bottom-line being, Chung’s stories also work, because of the exquisite translation by Anton Hur.

The stories could’ve fallen flat to their face in English if it weren’t for the translator, given the landscape in which they are set. Each story is heavily nuanced, and culturally unique to the place, and that to translate to English, so readers get it all, is the work of an expert, which Anton is. No word seems out of place, nothing jarring in a sentence, and the emotions remain the same. Where I had to feel horror, I did. Where I had to feel pity, I did.

Cursed Bunny is all about placing the overlooked and the ignored at the center of things. From monsters to androids to ghosts to sometimes what comes out of us as well is exaggerated and placed in contexts for all to see, in all its glory or not.

Darkness by Ratnakar Matkari. Translated from the Marathi by Vikrant Pande.

Darkness by Ratnakar Matkari Title: Darkness
Author: Ratnakar Matkari
Translated from the Marathi by Vikrant Pande
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-9353573331
Genre: Short Stories, Horror
Pages: 228
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3/5

I love the horror genre – whether it is in movies or books. Something about consuming it, getting terribly scared, and then not being able to sleep for days. Yes, it does seem kind of sadistic, but I enjoy the “thrill” of that as well.

So, when I came across Darkness by Ratnakar Matkari – a collection of 18 horror and supernatural stories, translated from the Marathi by Vikrant Pande, I was whooping for joy. Finally, there was one collection of horror stories, in translation, from the sub-continent. I am sure there are more, but I don’t know of them for now.

The book starts off with great promise. The opening story “Birthday” is about a young boy who can predict death-days by knowing your date of birth. Honestly, I was spooked by it. I think I even got gooseflesh. The titular story “Darkness” is excellently written – pulpy, takes the reader to the edge, and leaves you wondering what actually took place. A story of doppelgängers? Time travel? What just happened? As I progressed, I was skeptical about the quality of stories but surprisingly the pace and fear factor were maintained. “By the Clock” seemed predictable but wasn’t. Most of Matkari’s stories seem predictable but they aren’t and that’s the beauty of evoking the chill in the reader, long after the story is over.

At the same time, some stories did not work for me and seemed rushed. “I See Vikram” was so-so – about an affluent kid who seems to have an imaginary friend from the slums did not do it for me when it came to the writing or ambience.

Most of his stories hint at other dimensions, other worlds, time-travel, and of what will come to be which is already known to the characters. “Monsoon Guest” is a great example of infusing mythology with horror – some way also reminded me of the movie Tumbbad – the eeriness, the ambience which becomes a character in itself, and the dialogue that takes over the story.

While reading this book, I also often wondered if the experience would be even more enriching reading it in the original Marathi, and the answer was a resounding YES. Couple of reasons for it: The terrain and locales in which these stories are set are so deep-rooted in Maharashtra that only reading them in Marathi would do complete justice to the writer’s vision and storytelling capabilities. The second reason being, nothing like reading anything pulpy in the original language only to truly feel the emotion the author intended you to.

“Darkness” for me worked on several plot points, stories, and gave me the much-needed spooks. At the same time, it also got repetitive in most part, and predictable. I would still recommend this collection of stories, wonderfully translated by Vikrant Pande – keeping the essence intact in most stories. It is the kind of collection that will jolt you and make you also look over your shoulder once in a while.

Bombay Fever by Sidin Vadukut

51FWR4u6XwL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_-2 Title: Bombay Fever
Author: Sidin Vadukut
Publisher: Simon and Schuster India
ISBN: 978-8193355282
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

What are the elements of a good thriller? Pace, pace and more pace is what I would answer if someone asked me such a question. Also, the plot matters and that goes without saying. I like thrillers to be simple and not so complicated. Off-late, every thriller I picked up has had the element of too much happening in it, which kind of ruins the book for me. I like a story to be direct, perhaps even one-dimensional when it comes to this genre and not too complex that I don’t understand what’s going on after a point. It shouldn’t become the Interstellar of novels.

So when a copy of “Bombay Fever” by Sidin Vadukut found its way to be for review, I was a little skeptical to read it. I do not enjoy medical thrillers. I have read a couple of Robin Cooks as we all do when in college but that’s about it. Till I started reading this one and was completely taken in by it. The book starts in Switzerland and in the courtyard of a Hindu temple – a woman collapses in the arms of a visiting Indian journalist, and her body is nothing but blood. The same then continues to happen all over Mumbai – men, women, children, the young and the old die in the same way and no one knows why. It is a deadly disease but that’s all is known about it. What will happen next? Will the city be saved? Will the world be saved? Sidin makes you dig further and also smartly leaves clues all over the place as you turn the pages.

Vadukut’s writing till now has only been in the genre of humor and sarcasm, so maybe that is why I was skeptical to even read this one. Having said that, this book isn’t like any other thriller. I loved the research done by Sidin for this one – there is a lot of medical and historical trivia of the last century which was so essential to the plot. The writing is crisp and doesn’t amble now. The chapters are short (Thank God for small mercies) which is what is most needed when a thriller is being written or according to me one gets bored, if the chapters are too long. Also, what I loved about the book is that the writing is simple. Even the technical terms usage doesn’t impact the writing. Might I add, there is also some humor in the book which is much needed given the seriousness and tension that the book is layered with.

“Bombay Fever” hits the right spots at the right time. It makes you want to turn the pages and the plot twists and characters are all very plausible. At the same time, it is very scary to note that something like that could actually happen. An epidemic is only a reality that Sidin writes of, instilling that strange fear in you at 2 am in the morning as you turn the page.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson Title: The Sundial
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN: 978-0143107064
Genre: Horror, Gothic
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

So it had been a while since I read something gothic or along the lines of horror. I then thought of Shirley Jackson. I had heard of her now and then but never got around to reading her. Friends did tell me about, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” and the more famous, “The Haunting of Hill House” but somehow I never got around to reading her. I am amazed and a little sad that I did not read her before. Well, it is never too late. I am going to devour every book written by Ms. Jackson in this year itself.

“The Sundial” is a book which really come to think of it cannot fall under any genre. While reading it, I thought it could be classified as Goth or Horror, but somehow that does not do justice to a book of this range and magnificence. The book’s central character is the Halloran mansion, belonging to the Halloran family. The book starts with the death of the son of the family and the story kicks in from there.

Aunt Fanny has always been the peculiar one in the family. The one, who wanders, gets lost and then eventually returns on her own. This time she returns with a revelation: Her father, the late Mr Halloran appeared to her – a vision and revealed that the world will come to an end and the only people who will survive will be the ones who are in the house. The household is rather calm about it, they believe her and wait for the end to arrive. There is Mr Halloran (Fanny’s brother) and his wife, Mrs. Halloran, their daughter-in-law, Maryjane, their granddaughter Fancy, the help (so to say) Essex and Ms. Ogilvie, who are the principal characters of the house, and more start entering the house, once the news spreads.

The family believes that the new world is just for them. There are a lot of undertones in the book – which I had a ball reading and identifying. The strained relationships sometimes lead to violence. The hatred for one another is apparent and the new world also perhaps cannot do much for them. There is a part in the book which is my most favourite – that said by the young child, Fancy, about the new world. I thought it would be best to make it a part of my review:

“Look. Aunt Fanny keeps saying that there is going to be a lovely world, all green and still and perfect and we are all going to live there and be peaceful and happy. That would be perfectly fine for me, except right here I live in a lovely world, all green and still and perfect, even though no one around here seems to be very peaceful or happy.”

For me the above quote somehow sums up the entire book and yet as a reader, I had to keep turning the pages to know how it ends. The title of the book comes from the huge Sundial which is in the Halloran’s garden and of course indicative of passing time and how time is no longer of essence really, but still is.

The characters created by Shirley Jackson are spooky, brave, fearsome and at the same time, willing to work towards a change for the better. Their lives are fractured to that extent that they want to put their belief in anything. The writing is packed with punch at every single page. My only grouse (a slight one at that) was that some characters did not get enough of the limelight, but that is alright. It is a great book nonetheless – spooky, weird and contemplative as well. Shirley Jackson for now is my favourite writer of this genre and like I said, I will only read more.

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