Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of Darker Persuasions

Darker Persuasions: Of Dystopia, Vampires, Circus Freaks and Vigilantism

For someone who isn't a frantic reader of fiction, my current recommendations are not only all fiction, but fairly dark. Of course, I generally don't read much happy-go-lucky, feel-good fiction anyway so this is par for the course, but it struck me as I looked at my shelf that the current array is very dark and rather interesting. Let's have a look, shall we?

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (paperback, $14.95)

In the build-up to Atwood's next book, The Year of the Flood (9/22), I'm encouraging people to either read for the first time or re-read Oryx and Crake. It's a dystopian look at the future that eerily mirrors our present: Genetic splicing and god-like creature creation is used for everything from food to pets to organ donation for humans; where any awful tragedy can quickly be viewed on a computer via video-sharing sites; child pornography is rampant; and something apocalyptic has wiped out most of humanity. Told from the perspective of a survivor who may or may not have had a part of it all, bouncing back from post-disaster to pre-disaster, Atwood uses her trademark imagination of the worst society can do balanced alongside great humanity, compassion and even spirituality.

The Resurrectionist by Jack O'Connell
(paperback, $13.95)

A more than strange, bizarre story of a father's deep, abiding love for his son who has been in a coma for most of his life. Throw in a strange neurosurgeon with almost other-worldly experimental procedures, a comic book full of circus freaks that may be a reality in and of itself, a motorcycle gang, hallucinogens and very little daylight - and you have the perfect recipe for a novel that you can't put down, without necessarily realizing why! The dark imaginings of O'Connell's Limbo linger long after the story has come to it's riveting, perplexing conclusion.

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (paperback, $15.95)

I don't care for vampires. I don't read about them. I don't watch movies about them. I don't 'do' horror. However, the "book club" I sporadically take part in chose this Swedish vampire novel as it's selection for June with the intention of watching the film version for "discussion." Something about the writing and the premise perked my interest and I thought I would give it a chance. So glad I did as it was, using the new, obnoxious non-word of choice for blurbs these days - "unputdownable". Our 12 yr old protagonist is more than a little preoccupied with a grisly murder that occurred in the forested park nearby as well as the appearance of a strange young girl who moved in next door - a new friend he only sees, seemingly, at night. A non-stop thrill ride that you do NOT want to read before bedtime!

Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
(paperback, $14.00)

I love Cormac McCarthy. I love his nihilism and violence, his plain prose stories of humanity falling apart at it's gritty western seams. This, his second novel, is as brief and whirlwind a read as The Road. A woman gives birth to her brother's child and he takes to the woods to leave it for dead. Upon hearing that the child was alive, she flees in search of the babe. Her brother follows. Meanwhile there is a minsterial like figure with two partners traveling the countryside, also in search of something, or someone, exacting their quick and bloody revenge under cover of darkness wherever they go. An excerpt, if you will:

Pale lamplight falling down the door, the smiling face, black beard, the tautly drawn and dusty suit of black. Light went in a long bright wink upon the knifeblade as it sank with a faint breath of gas into his belly. He felt suddenly very cold. The dogs had gone and there was no sound in the night anywhere. Minister? he said. Minister? His assassin smiled upon him with bright teeth, the faces of the other two peering from either shoulder in consubstantial monstrosity, a grim triune that watched wordless, affable. He looked down at the man's fist cupped against his stomach. The fist rose in an eruption of severed viscera until the blade seized in the junction of his breastbone and he stood disemboweled. He reached to put one hand on the doorjamb. He took a step backwards as if to let them pass.

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