Thursday, June 20, 2013


As much as I hate to think of a book world without Stephen King, I can now sleep at night knowing that he has a worthy successor.

And by successor, I mean not only another author, but his son.  A son who has his own unique stamp on horror writing.  Little Stevie King is probably a proud papa.

'NOS4A2' is Joe Hill's newest novel, and next to his fantastic 'Heart-Shaped Box', it stacks up very well.  It's thrilling.  It's scary (oh, yes, it's plenty scary).  It's written with a great deal of love and observation.

Here and there, the reader will find a few sweet homages to his father's books; Shawshank, Pennywise the Clown, notably.  But Joe's style isn't as raw as Stephen's.  Sure, it's visceral (he and his father tend to favor children and their memories when composing stories), and his observations of the 'little' things (the smell of concrete, the clacking sound of boards as the protagonist rides her bike across them) pack a wallop, but there is always always goodness in his stories; Good vs. Evil, which is contained in almost every story ever imagined.  As for the raw element, time will tell.  

'NOS4A2' begins with the introduction of the 'bad guy'; a man who is a century old, clinging to his so-called life as he lays in a coma.  And then the story truly takes off with a search.  Victoria McQueen's mother has lost a bracelet, and Vic goes to look for it.  She knows where it is, but it's a long way away.  She jumps on her bike, imagining the place she last saw it, and as she takes off...she's there.  But not just hocus-pocus, disappearing into thin air.  She has to have another vehicle, and it is an old covered bridge.  Vic doesn't tell anyone about her ability because no one would believe her.  But Charlie Talent Manx knows it all too well, for he has his own special talent:  Finding children and transporting them to 'Christmasland' in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith.  Vic and Charlie cross paths, and their encounter leaves her scarred for life.  But as the years pass, Charlie goes searching for Vic, and the only way he can take his revenge is in stealing something Vic values above her own life.

Vivid, full-blooded characterizations and his immense talent for contemporary horror have me waiting patiently for Hill's next masterpiece.  I hope to see he and his father collaborate on a novel-length story.  I'm sure that it would keep me up late at night, reading and wondering if there really is something under my bed, or a car in my parking spot, engine running, just waiting for me.  'NOS4A2' is good horror, no doubt about it.

And by the way, don't forget to read the note on the type used.  It's worth it.

Believe me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

'The Golem and the Jinni'

Monsters surround us everywhere, in every life, in every era.  We have the typical Hollywood monsters.  We have classical monsters from literature.  We have religious monsters.

But the biggest, scariest monster isn't found in a lagoon, or in a laboratory, or even under a bed. Pick up a newspaper and you'll find it there; usually on the front page.  Female or male.  It all comes down to humankind.

Helene Wecker has presented to us her much-celebrated debut novel, 'The Golem and the Jinni', a story that celebrates freedom and desire, shackles and tyranny.  It is a tale of two creatures (one a golem, a clay figure from Jewish mythology which is brought to life, and the other a jinni, a spirit from Islamic mythology), who, through their desire to find love and a chance at a 'real' life, come together to defeat the real monster who  is bent on gaining mastery over them in order to destroy them.

It is 1899 New York, and a mysterious woman lands in the city, alone and bereft.  A local rabbi takes pity on her and offers her his home and help.  But when he discovers what she really is, he is torn between destroying her, or allowing her to live a life of peace and fulfillment.  At around the same time, in a Syrian neighborhood, another creature is accidentally released from an ancient copper flask, and the only person who knows who he is is his future business partner, a tinsmith.  Masking their true natures, both creatures try their best to live in a strange, new world.

The golem and the jinni soon meet, and a tenuous friendship is forged.  But after a terrifying incident takes place, both creatures retreat to their separate worlds.  When a dangerous adversary threatens their very existence, golem and jinni must join forces and make a fateful decision.

As much as I loved the creatures which take center stage in this fantastic story, it is the many other characters who kept me turning the pages.  So vividly realized, so authentic; I almost believed that each and every one of them really existed.  From Rabbi Meyer, who first took the golem under his wing, and Maryam, the coffeeshop owner who could charm the gold filling out of a tooth, to Michael, Rabbi Meyer's nephew, a man on a mission to help newly-arrived Jewish immigrants.  And even Joseph Schall, a mysterious man who hides his true intentions all too well.  Although it took time for the story to gain momentum, the climactic scene near the end was worth my patience.

Reading 'The Golem and the Jinni' brought to mind Pete Hamill's wonderful novel, 'Snow in August', a story of a boy, a rabbi, and the golem who saved them both.  His novel is a good accompaniment to Ms. Wecker's story.

So there is still magic everywhere.  There is also the desire for passion, freedom, and acceptance.  All creatures, magical and otherwise, deserve it all.

But beware the monsters, for they, too, are everywhere.

They just hide themselves better.

'The Golem and the Jinni', published by HarperCollins, is available everywhere.  Support your local library and independent bookstore!