Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Paperbacks From Hell

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror FictionPaperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across this book on display at a local Barnes & Noble & immediately swooped it up. I had just spent the afternoon at a nearby used bookstore taking pictures of weird & retro sci-fi covers–how could I not check this collection out?!

Author Grady Hendrix was merely another curious browser in dusty old book stores, trying to find the weirdest, most lurid forgotten paperbacks until his innocuous habit became a full-blown obsession with cataloging the explosion of horror novels from the 70s & 80s. His timeline kicks off with the publication of Rosemary’s Baby & ends with Clive Barker & the brief explosion of teen horror luminaries like R.L. Stine & Christopher Pike.

Hendrix is having way too much fun with this book, exploring the social anxieties of the decades & making a bunch of silly running jokes about how skeleton doctors are the worst doctors with equal enthusiasm. And if you are curious about his focus & are game to play along, you’ll have fun while reminiscing about some of those same mass market covers you probably saw in the supermarket while tagging along on your parents’ errands. In all seriousness, some of the books/authors that Hendrix outlines will tease you just enough that you’ll find yourself making a reading list against your better judgement. He’s convinced this reader to give V.C. Andrews a chance & to cause me to look at William Johnston’s Westerns with a skeptical glance. (I see you, weirdo, with your supposedly milquetoast jacket descriptions.)

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Rat Queens, volume #3: Demons

Rat Queens, Vol. 3: DemonsRat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hannah, no!

Sorry, I mean, this third collection starts off with our Rat Queens returning to the lands surrounding Mage University to find out what happened to Hannah’s father. Myriad plots are afoot: Hannah uncovering her parents’ student activism & it’s effect on her own upbringing; Dee struggling with her insights into the nature of N’Rygoth; Betty hiding from a bounty hunter with Violet’s help in keeping her secret from the others. There is a lot going on & our pace is set fairly quickly from the opening pages–so readers, you better keep up. This collection is also heart-breaking as all hell–Hannah’s troubled past ends up taking center-stage, leaving me to compulsively cry out periodically HANNAH, NOOOOOO!

So, what’s good here? There’s plenty of action that reveals our Queens’ backstories & relationships. Dee’s joyous exploration of the University library leads us into reuniting with one of her brothers leads us into Hannah’s troubles with her own powers leads us to the reckless argument that ends up dividing our characters. All amazing story-telling with high emotional stakes. The problem is that Wiebe takes his conflict to the very limits, leaving readers to wonder where the following issues are going to go or if one or more of the mains are going to be eliminated entirely. Excuse me a sec. (HanNAH, NOOOOooooo!) And the thing of it is, Hannah isn’t even my favorite character but her story is tragic & her pain resonated with this reader. Also, there are a few characters introduced that I would love to know more about that seem just to show up for plot-reasons. (Looking at you, Senoa.)

All in all, an intense, well-paced series that will leave you frustrated for answers & wanting more immediately.

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Off the Shelf: Fight Club #2, issue #5

Fight Club 2 #5Fight Club 2 #5 by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sebastian Narrator survives his fight with Angel Face through Tyler’s saving grace. Tyler gets stitched up & flies off to an expensive chalet filled with art & housing Junior, safe & happy to see his possessed father. Sebastian regains control eventually & goes to see Dr. Wrong, who confers with Tyler again & decides the best course of action is to kill off Sebastian. S is chosen for a special task force to deface art through suicide & is shipped off to his objective like a good little space monkey. In the meantime, Marla & her progeria friend have a heart-to-heart where Progeria Girl reveals her condition is a lie & someone with bitch tits shows up to protect the pair from a Rize or Die sniper.

So I said last time that I wouldn’t take FC2 too seriously due to Palahniuk’s hi-jinks last time & that extends this issue to Sebastian’s supposed death. Last issue was supposed to scare us into thinking that S wouldn’t survive his encounter with Angel Face, but as soon as Tyler takes control, he’s up & walking around with little more than a busted brow & a black eye. With all the dreams & hypnotic states that FC2 relies on, who’s to say that the final gory panels aren’t symbolic. Also apparently Robert Paulson has gone from a transparent ghost to a tit-jiggling reality within the space of an issue & Progeria Girl is an inversion of Brandon Whittier from Haunted.

I’m still not sure where this story is headed but at this point I’m more amused than annoyed. I’d really love for Tyler’s equilibrium to be shaken up a little & his nice little plan pulled off-course. There are plenty of little seeds that could come to fruition and do that but I’m not sure which will hit first. But we’re halfway through; readers will know what’s up soon enough.

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