Every once in a while I get the chance to finish a novel instead of a work of non-fiction, and it can be very rewarding too.
Today’s blog post is about the haunting realities that the mind can conjure up using only the most bare narrative elements. On the surface, we all think that what makes for good horror is jump scares and the sudden twists in the plot. But diving deeper, it is the mark of a brilliant horror novelist who is able to bring something that seems only possible in the mind, and when upon closer inspection bears all the hallmarks of reality. Albeit, a little too closely.
Finding Horror on the Shelves
After I had finished The Chrysalids, I was really impressed by how I came to choose that book. Purely based on the aesthetic inclinations I experienced while looking over its cover. Yes, I judged that book entirely by its cover. But when I found myself wanting another novel after I finished that one, I thought very deeply about the process of getting a book worm’s attention with a cover and the immensely complicated endeavor of marketing a book.
As I thought on that, pondered it, and went to the Barnes and Nobles where I purchased The Chrysalids, I looked for books that bore some of the similar hallmarks of that book. There was something that the publisher had chosen with the spine text and the color selection that really caught my eye the last time. There was something too in the cover art and the fonts they used. I believed, as I meandered the shelves, that if a publisher is so thoughtful in their cover creation, what kind of books were they willing to put their stamp of approval on?
Truthfully, I was rather impressed by many of the books that the publisher New York Review Books had. They didn’t seem to be interested in reprinting classics with fancy covers, or catering to modern whims and contemporary authors. No, they seemed interested in sharing hidden gems for authors that were buried in all the drab and dull texts printed over the last half century or more. William Sloane was most certainly one of those gems.
What Makes A Great Story
There are two incredible books bound up in this text, The Rim of Morning. And each of them are incredibly insightful in the ways that men and women go about exploring uncomfortable truths about their world.
But it isn’t the what that gets you, it is how the story unfolds
In the first story, we have a young man going to his best friend’s father, telling him about the recent suicide of the father’s son. In the second story we have another man who is having to discover why his friend asked for his advice on a recent invention of his. Both of these stories were fascinating to say the least, and again, not because of the jump scares or the plot twists; you know what is going to happen the whole time as you read these “two tales of cosmic horror.” But it isn’t the what that gets you, it is how the story unfolds that really drives you to turn page after page.
So you are probably wondering, why would I want to read something like this? I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me, than you are really intrigued with how an author explores the psychology of his characters, or making conjectures about what is going to happen next, and even being bold enough to declare whodunnit. A great book doesn’t just tell you a story, a great story binds you to the pages as you learn of a friend’s suicide, or the terror that comes with a mad scientist’s passion. Great stories explore the love that people have for each other, and with any luck, you will find your self loving them too. In spite of what ever may happen.
The Hardest Part of Great Horror
It is a notable fact that horror, as a genre, is incredibly difficult to write. See, it is well known that stories have a beginning, middle, and an end; but where people get torn up about horror, as a genre and not in real life, is that there is rarely resolve when you get to the end of the story. You have turned hundreds of pages, you understand the monster and the motives, but in the end you are left wondering… is that it?
For William Sloane, I feel that he understood how to end his stories quite well. In fact, I would say that he did a much more succinct job of it in the second story, The Edge of Running Water, under this title than he did in the first; and my reasoning is that the end of To Walk the Night seems to button down really well after it all shakes out. Almost too well… The Edge of Running Water, however, left me wondering deeply about the nature of the scientist’s machine and what other kinds of machines are being made around us.
You really can’t lose, in my opinion, with which one you start first. When you choose to pick this book up, I would want to know what your thoughts are in the comments below.
When It Is All Said And Done
Horror, as a genre, is a realm of inquiry that I feel is highly under appreciated and tremendously over saturated by only a handful of writers. You saw that Stephen King wrote a forward for this book, right? And that’s ultimately the problem with the genre, it is difficult to write, it is difficult to appreciate, and it is difficult to find a book worth reading that isn’t just a bunch of mumbo jumbo or highfalutin nonsense.
William Sloane, though, is an author who has masterfully crafted a story that leads you to feel deeply on account of his characters. And what’s more is that masterful sense of doom he is able to weave around the story without it becoming bogged down.
Really, I enjoyed this book. And I most especially enjoyed reading these stories aloud with my wife before bed, and experiencing the tension with a friend. It was truly a treat to share a scary book with someone who likes to share scary movies too.
What about you? What horror stories have you read that other’s may have never heard of? Do you agree with my analysis about the problems with the horror genre? Comment below.