Thursday, September 24, 2015

Frankenstorm by Ray Garton, also including the novella "The Guy Down the Street" (2014)

Frankenstorm by Ray Garton, also including the novella "The Guy Down the Street" (2014): Great, fun, pulpy horror-thriller with a terrible title. An unlikely West Coast hurricane and a sinister government bio-weapon project team up to cause major problems for the citizens of Eureka, California, north of San Francisco. Ray Garton handles the multiple viewpoint third-person narration smoothly, cranking up the tension as the disparate plot threads begin to dovetail towards the conclusion. 

As pretty much always, Garton manages to work a social consciousness into the horrors and thrills. The bio-weapon team has been abducting homeless people from the Eureka area and experimenting on them in order to develop a viral weapon. 

Both the first chapter and various sections throughout generate sympathy for these unwilling test subjects, as well as for a working-class woman who also gets pulled into the terrible events of the novel simply because she needs money for her son's medical care. It's rare that a thriller can end with a solemn contemplation of mortality, but Frankenstorm does, and effectively. This is the sort of thrilling agit-prop we could use more of.

Nonetheless, thrills and surprises are paramount. Frankenstorm stirs a bunch of things that have often served as the plot-engine for a thriller -- a crazy cop, a conspiracy-busting reporter, a well-armed private army, a mad scientist, a hurricane, a child custody battle -- into the same pot. And it's delicious! This paperback edition also includes an X-rated version of the sort of American-suburban contes cruel that Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont created in the 1950's, "The Guy Down the Street." In all, recommended.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Nature of Balance by Tim Lebbon (2000)

The Nature of Balance by Tim Lebbon (2000): An early novel from the prolific Tim Lebbon pits a small group of people against nature gone mad. Or at least intensely angry at human beings. 

There are elements of Arthur Machen's work throughout the novel, as one reviewer points out in a blurb on the back cover. Of course, Lebbon has a character talk about an Arthur Machen story early in the text, so there's a signpost here, brightly illuminated. It's Machen's "The Terror," in which animals launch an attack on humanity, that's referenced in the novel. 

However, there are other Machanesque touches as well that recall other works, especially a discussion of what true natural evil would look like ("The White People") and Machen's ideas of reality being perhaps too horrible to contemplate without some mediation ("The White People" and "The Great God Pan," among others).

Lebbon doesn't attempt to write like Machen. The Nature of Balance is more like SplatterMachen, with all the explicit blood and guts and gore and sexual ramifications shown where they were only (strongly) implied in Machen's early 20th-century work. It works because of Lebbon's strong hand at characterization more than anything else. 

The litany of horrors can get a bit repetitive after awhile (never have so many things smelled so "rich" and "meaty" -- the line between gross-out and dog-food commercial can be a thin one). But Lebbon also exhibits a great deal of creativity in depicting Nature gone mad at warp-speed. There's actually something Miltonic in some of the descriptions of what is, I suppose, a post-post-lapsarian landscape, a world in which once again everything has changed, changed utterly. But there's also hope, and hopeful characters amidst the rubble and the crawling tentacles of malevolent trees. Recommended.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2009)

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2009): The Little Stranger begins with a brief incident involving our narrator Faraday's visit as a boy to the English estate dubbed The Hundreds, just after the conclusion of World War One. The main part of the narrative takes place a couple of years after the conclusion of World War Two, still narrated by that boy who's now a country doctor in his childhood village in Warwickshire, an area in Central England half-way between London and Liverpool and just west of Birmingham, containing Stratford-Upon-Avon and Coventry. 

Dr. Faraday's mother worked at The Hundreds as a nursery attendant; his father was also a working man. They managed to put together enough money to put Faraday through good enough schools to get through to his M.D.. He has a lingering guilt over the idea that his parents' efforts on his behalf led to their early deaths. He also pointedly feels class snobbery throughout the novel, both generally and in his practice: he feels that he's at a disadvantage against his 'higher-born' colleagues when it comes to getting well-off clients.

As the main narrative begins, Faraday answers a call at The Hundreds. His colleague who normally handles medical problems at the estate is on another call. And so for the first time in 30 years, Faraday steps into what seems to have been a shining moment in his youth. However, what he finds is becoming more and more the normative in 20th-century England -- an estate and a family fallen on hard times and in the process of falling further as Clement Atlee's new Labour government sets higher taxes on the wealthy and the landed. 

Both the house and the grounds are falling into chaos and ruin. The Ayres family, longtime owners of The Hundreds, simply don't have the money to keep things running the way they ran during Faraday's boyhood visit. Faraday is appalled but charmed by the still-impressive mansion. He's been called to find out what's wrong with the Ayres' last full-time servant, a 14-year-old maid who's only been with them for a month or so.

Faraday quickly realizes that the maid is feigning illness. She's anxious over her feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially at night in the nearly deserted mansion as she sleeps a substantial distance away from anyone else. And she believes there's a malevolent ghost loose in The Hundreds. So it begins.

The novel takes cues from a number of the greatest hits of the horror genre. It's easy to see The Turn of the Screw in the setting of an underpopulated country house as seen and described with at least some unreliability by someone who isn't from England's upper class. The Hundreds is inhabited by a mother and her two grown children. The daughter is named Caroline, the son Roderick. So the novel nods to another waning family and decaying mansion in Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." You know, with a major character named RODERICK Usher. Nudge, nudge.

Mainstream critics certainly seemed to twig to these well-known, canonical works in relation to Waters' novel. The novel's style certainly suggests neither Poe nor James. It's solid and workmanlike, and the accumulation of telling detail works throughout with the slowly turning screw of the plot so as to make The Little Stranger a terrific page-turner. That the novel crashes into the mountain and explodes over the last 20 pages is a shame, but what comes before is mostly excellent.

How does a ghost story get shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, as this novel was? Well, Waters was a well-regarded, mainstream novelist. The Little Stranger deals with Great Britain's still overwhelmingly class-oriented social system to the extent that the novel's ghostly, ghastly happenings all constellate around class consciousness, class resentment, and social change. People love class-related stuff, especially when it's set in the past and especially when there's decaying gentry and giant houses involved. It's Downton Nightmare Abbey.

Dr. Faraday will become increasingly entangled in the affairs of the Ayres family. He'll reveal through his narration his growing devotion to both them and their magnificently decaying estate. Bad things will happen with decreasingly believable rational explanations. Is there a ghost? Is Faraday becoming obsessed with The Hundreds over and above his concern for the people there? Will anyone call in a vicar or read a book about supernatural occurrences published in the 20th century? Is 'spinster' Caroline, perhaps 30, really a repressed lesbian? Will Basil Exposition show up?

Well, 'sort of' to that last question. Waters generally has a light hand with explanation and exposition. But the novel's favoured explanation of what's going on at The Hundreds is so odd that the two bouts of exposition that explain the concept aren't enough to suspend my disbelief. And I'm willing to believe an awful lot in the context of a ghost story. 

But what's required here isn't simply belief in a fairly dodgy concept that shows up in some explanations of poltergeist activity. It's belief in something that can reach across miles of distance, read minds, imitate a wide variety of sounds and voices, spontaneously start fires, write in some indelible way on walls, lift and throw heavy objects, control animals, and possibly apport objects from one location to another. It's not a poltergeist or a ghost -- it's the Swiss Army Knife of the spiritual world, with powers that would make for a pretty dangerous member of the X-Men.

Some of the problem springs from the fact that the supernatural explanation has to be fitted to the novel's exploration of class resentment. And ghosts and other supernatural forces have indeed often functioned as metaphorical explorations of real-world social and personal problems. But Waters' concept has so many moving parts! And it's so programmatic in relation to the sub-text it's illustrating! It's not too far removed from the Hyper-allegorical monsters of Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queene. Especially Errour, who vomits evil books because dammit, I you will understand this point I'm making about erroneous interpretations of the Bible as set forth during the Great Pamphlet Wars.

And so The Little Stranger ends up stranded in a sort of metaphorical borderland between the two greatest English-language haunted-house novels of the 20th century, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Richard Matheson's Hell House. Jackson's novel leaves the reader in as much mystery at the end as it does at the beginning -- supernatural events have occurred, but it's difficult to see any meaning in them beyond the basic malign, and their mechanisms are never revealed. Hell House offers a pseudoscientific explanation for its horrors, fully explained and reasoned through, and satisfying in a literary sense without destroying any of the horror that has preceded the final solution.

The Little Stranger stands between these two. There's still mystery at the end, but the novel has advanced a preferred or privileged explanation of the reasons and mechanisms of the haunting. But that explanation is too brief and patched together to seem convincing. 

The novel also falls away from the peaks of the haunted-house novel as a sub-genre because of an attribute it shares with many of Stephen King's novels: the dominance of the sub-text. The Shining is a haunted-house novel that has a very clear and intentional sub-text; it's the haunting as an elaborate metaphor for domestic abuse as perpetrated by an addictive personality under pressure. Obviously there are other things in there too, but the sub-text looms over the events in the Overlook Hotel. Similarly, The Little Stranger uses the supernatural to discuss issues of class and gender in England after World War Two (and, really, to the present day -- it's not like the gentry have gone away). 

But the aforementioned novels by Jackson and Matheson aren't about something other than the supernatural, at least not in the programmatic way that the Waters and King texts are. They're ultimately about the hauntings themselves, and how small groups of people deal with them. The Haunting of Hill House and Hell House engage fully with the Sublime and the mysterious. The Little Stranger does not -- nor does it seem to want to except in a couple of brief passages. As such, it's a finer novel involving class conflicts and social change than it is a ghost story. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

The Little Stranger is a heck of a ride, dense with period detail and blessed with a narrator who may be too sympathetic for the novel's own good. That he's unreliable and obsessive may or may not matter -- the novel certainly privileges one reading of the events over all others by the conclusion, but it doesn't seal off one's ability to read things in other ways. The major characters are all skilfully drawn, a period skilfully evoked, a disintegrating house skilfully drawn so as to almost become a character itself. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954): Matheson's first novel begat Night of the Living Dead which begat pretty much every zombie apocalypse of the last 50 years on TV, in movies, and in print. While I Am Legend has been adapted for the screen three times, no one has ever captured its portrayal of abject loneliness. Humanity may have been devastated by a plague of vampirism, but protagonist Robert Neville's tortured thoughts and actions make the novel special as a work of literature and not just as a massive cultural influence.

The novel may be set in the late 1970's, but Neville is very much a 1950's Everyman figure. He dwells in a suburb of Los Angeles with a wife and a daughter. He carpools to work with a neighbour. He drinks a lot of cocktails. But a vaguely defined war in which Neville himself served overseas may have unleashed the disease that caused all those stories of vampirism in Eastern Europe during the 18th century. In the now of the novel, which we join in media res, Neville is alone but under siege by multitudes of vampires every night. He's turned his house into a fortress. And every day, he drives around pulling vampires out of their hiding places and staking them to death.

For a short novel (maybe 70,000 words soaking wet), I Am Legend is packed with heady goodness. There's the characterization of Neville, who reveals hidden depths as we spend more time with him. There's Neville's scientific approach to understanding just how these vampires work, and what works against them, and why. There's the back-story of the fall of society, with mass graves and an incompetent government and growing paranoia. 

And there are the vampires themselves, split into two groups: living vampires who've been infected and changed, and dead vampires who continue to be animated by the contagion. Both die when you stake them, though the second group occasionally disintegrates. Neville's quest to understand what's going on in a scientific sense helps him to hold off the encroaching loneliness. He's Robinson Crusoe with a microscope and no Man Friday. He doesn't even have a parrot to talk to. But he does have his books and his classical music.

The list of later works with I Am Legend's DNA in them could probably fill a book. From Matheson's succinct glimpses of plague-fueled societal breakdown come World War Z and The Stand and so many others; from the monsters whose origins seem to be scientifically explicable come legions of infected zombies and vampires whose blood teems with bacteria or viral loads instead of magic. It's the loneliness of Neville that hasn't been replicated that often in subsequent works of horror. 

Thankfully, there's also grim humour throughout the novel, much of it supplied by Neville's dead but lively vampire neighbour Cortman (!), who yells endlessly at Neville by night but whose diurnal hiding place Neville searches fruitlessly for by day. Good old Cortman. He never shuts up. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Vanishing on 7th Street (2010)

Vanishing on 7th Street: written by Anthony Jaswinski; directed by Brad Anderson; starring Hayden Christensen (Luke), John Leguizamo (Paul), Thandie Newton (Rosemary), Jacob Latimore (James), and Taylor Groothuis (Briana) (2010): Vaguely enjoyable, apocalyptic horror movie in which nearly everyone vanishes because the darkness seems to be eating people. The movie remains steadfast to the end in its refusal to offer a succinct explanation of what's really going on. The cast is fine but perhaps too recognizable for this sort of low-budget horror movie -- they kept pulling me out of the world of the movie. On the bright side, this isn't found-footage and it is set in Detroit. Lightly recommended.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Demon Night by J. Michael Straczynski (1988)

Demon Night by J. Michael Straczynski (1988): Babylon 5 creator  and long-time Spider-man writer J. Michael Straczynski has also written three horror novels over the years, with this being the first. It almost seems parodically like a Stephen King novel at points. It's laced with portentous and generally pretentious quotes at the beginning and at each section break, which is very much a King trademark (lest we miss the point,  Straczynski quotes King on the novel's main epigraph page). It's set in small-town Maine, it involves a former resident of that town as a child returning as an adult, and it involves an ancient evil awakening and transforming townspeople into monsters. Yes, it bears more than a passing resemblance to King's Salem's Lot, only with possession-crazy demons rather than vampirism as the culprit. 

The cast of characters who battle the evil includes a struggling writer, a Roman Catholic priest, and a medical doctor. OK, that's also quite a bit like the good guys in Salem's Lot. But wait, the protagonist has a wide array of psychic and telekinetic powers with which to battle the evil. So it's like Salem's Lot mashed up with Firestarter, The Shining, and The Dead Zone. There's also quite a bit of It. And there are Native American tribes mixed in because you can't have an American horror novel without a mysterious location tied into Native American spirituality.

Basically, if you haven't gotten enough Stephen King, Maine-based horror over the years, this novel may be for you. Straczynski offers generally well-drawn, sympathetic characters. The antagonist leaves a bit to be desired -- its speechifying, when it comes, is something of a disappointment. There's also a description of the Thing in its final form that really, really seems to anticipate South Park's ManBearPig. Snakes, cockroaches, and what appear to be malevolent, wall-crawling lobsters (well, it is Maine) show up in such a cursory fashion as obstacles to our heroes at the end that they seem to have accidentally wandered in from an Indiana Jones movie. 

And it's interesting to see a Wild Talent novel collided with a horror novel in this way, at least at the end when a full array of telepathic and telekinetic powers are needed to combat the antagonist. There's maybe a bit too much superhero in the main protagonist, but he's a relatively likable fellow for all that he's a Chosen One in the long tradition of genre Chosen Ones (though the Chosen One tends more to the epic fantasy and science fiction areas of genre).

The gem of characterization is the Roman Catholic priest, however, who takes a beating without ever losing his stubborn dignity. Why do atheists write the best characters of faith? In any case, I enjoyed the novel, though there's nothing that really stands out about it. Lightly recommended.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Weird Legacies (1977) edited by Mike Ashley

Weird Legacies (1977) edited by Mike Ashley, containing the following stories: "Skulls in the Stars" (1929) by Robert E. Howard; "The Three Marked Pennies" (1934) by Mary Elizabeth Counselman; "He That Hath Wings" (1938) by Edmond Hamilton; "The Distortion Out Of Space" (1934) by Francis Flagg; "The Utmost Abomination (1973) by Lin Carter and Clark Ashton Smith; "Eternal Rediffusion" (1973) by Eric Frank Russell and Leslie J. Johnson; "The Ducker"(1943) by Ray Bradbury; "The Black Kiss" (1937) by Henry Kuttner and Robert Bloch; and "The Survivor" (1954) by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth.

Enjoyable, brief anthology of stories previously published in the venerable Weird Tales (originally 1923-1954, with several brief revivals since then). Robert Bloch supplies a nice little introduction while anthologist Mike Ashley gives the reader lengthy, informative notes before and sometimes after the nine stories. The two 1973 anomalies in the story appearance dates come from Lin Carter finishing a much older Clark Ashton Smith fragment for the brief 1970's revival of Weird Tales and a rejected 1940's Eric Frank Russell/Leslie Johnson story that also appeared in the 1970's revival.

For such a short anthology, Weird Legacies possesses impressive range. All of the original Weird Tales writers who got high marks in the readers' polls in the magazine appear here with the exception of Seabury Quinn, whom Ashley promises will appear in a later (non-existent, so far as I can tell) anthology. 

Kuttner and Bloch's "The Black Kiss" is a revelation, an excellent, unsettling bit of aquatic horror with certain similarities to H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" from two correspondents with H.P.L.. August Derleth's literal-minded expansion of a Lovecraft fragment, "The Survivor," is perhaps too similar, and inferior, to the Bloch/Kuttner piece to profitably appear here. Lin Carter's Smith expansion offers an interesting pastiche of Smith's ornate, baroque writing style, but it too offers too much of the same thing as it concludes.

The other stories are more in line with the excellence of "The Black Kiss," with a solid Solomon Kane story from Robert E. Howard and Edmond Hamilton's elegiac tale of a winged mutant leading the way. "The Three Marked Pennies", one of the most popular Weird Tales stories ever, seems like a Twilight Zone bit super-collided with a conte cruel. It is indeed memorable. The Francis Flagg piece is interesting as a Lovecraftian riff with an ending more suited to the Horta episode of Star Trek. A somewhat atypical Ray Bradbury story set on the battlefields of WWII and the truly odd, metaphysical "Eternal Rediffusion" round out the selection. Recommended.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose: written by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson; directed by Scott Derrickson; starring Laura Linney (Erin Bruner), Tom Wilkinson (Father Moore), Cambell Scott (Ethan Thomas), Jennifer Carpenter (Emily Rose), Colm Feore (Karl Gunderson), and Henry Czerny (Dr. Briggs) (2005): Handsomely mounted and morally bankrupt piece of irresponsible garbage. And I wouldn't call it irresponsible if it didn't trumpet its based-on-a-true-story merits right through to the 'Where are they now?' end titles. But the facts of the case have been changed so much that the end titles are as much fiction as the narrative that precedes them. 

The movie was filmed in British Columbia, Canada and takes place in America in what looks to be the early oughts. The real story took place in Germany in the 1970's. About the only thing that stays the same is that the young woman being exorcised ended up dead. Her real name wasn't Emily Rose. The priest conducting the exorcism was tried for negligent homicide, so that's sort of right. Why not go with a complete fiction? Because 'Based on a true story' is part of the selling point for a movie like this.

So a devout young woman from a rural area goes to a big city college and gets possessed by a Devil. Or maybe The Devil. No, maybe it's six devils piled into her like she's a clown car. And they're all really important devils, name-checking their importance. Or maybe they're lying. Mean old medical science decides Emily Rose is epileptic, prescribes drugs. 

Oh ho, we're told by an anthropologist called in for the homicide trial, those epilepsy drugs made Emily Rose MORE SUSCEPTIBLE to demonic possession! Because God didn't account for the invention of pharmaceuticals or something. Also, the expert witness anthropologist quotes Carlos Castenada on the stand. I kid you not. She also appears to be Hindu. Theologically speaking, I have no idea what that means.

Laura Linney plays the agnostic defence attorney who learns to believe in something after being stalked by a demonic presence throughout the trial because Dark Forces want a certain trial outcome! The demons like to wake people up at 3 a.m., I'd assume because they're doing a riff on The Amityville Horror. The devil, or a devil, occasionally shows up as a silhouette of what appears to be Emperor Palpatine. 

One thing that gets me with works like this is that they make no sense from the standpoint of the very religion they purport to champion. Father Moore (a beleaguered Tom Wilkinson, earning that paycheck) theorizes that God wants him to stand trial so that people will hear Emily Rose's story and thus find proof of God. But proof negates faith. If God had ever wanted proof to be a component of Christianity, then He's been going about it the wrong way for more than 2000 years. This is an advertisement for Roman Catholicism from people who don't seem to have the faintest idea what Roman Catholicism stands for.

Anyway, the movie makes it clear that there's a possession going on, and that Emily Rose died not as a result of the exorcism but as a result of the demons getting stuck inside her because of her anti-epileptic medication. And it's all true, even though it isn't. How many people die in exorcisms every year? What a self-righteous, morally reprehensible turd of a movie. Everyone involved should be ashamed. Not recommended.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Deep by Nick Cutter (2015) and The Blair Witch Project Dossier by D.A. Stern and others (1999)

The Deep by Nick Cutter [Craig Davidson] (2015): Nick Cutter, the horror-writing pseudonym of mainstream Canadian writer Craig Davidson, became a James-Herbert-Award-winning nom-de-plume with the horror novel The Troop (2013). The Deep is the follow-up, with a jacket design that mimics that of The Troop despite their lack of similarities. Well, they're both mainly set on, under, or near water. So there you go.

A new disease nicknamed "The 'Gets'" (from "Forget") is ravaging humanity. Victims go from being forgetful to forgetting how to breathe in a matter of months. But through a series of events I'm not going to summarize, scientists discover that the cure for The Gets may exist at the deepest part of the ocean floor, in the Marianas Trench. So about a gazillion dollars goes into building an underwater science lab and an above-water support base. Three scientists go down. Things get weird. Communications fail. Underwater disturbances make it impossible to get back down to the station to investigate. One scientist comes up, dead and horribly mutilated.

So the authorities, at the request of a cryptic radio message from one of the two surviving scientists, round up his estranged brother, a divorced veterinarian whose only son disappeared without a trace a few years earlier. The vet doesn't know why his brother would have summoned him -- they haven't spoken in eight years and were never close to begin with. The brother down below is a super-genius (and a bit of a sociopath). Has their relationship changed? Are all great scientists in horror novels sociopaths?

Only one way to find out -- so down we go, eight miles down, to the Trieste underwater laboratory and the mysteries within and without.

As in The Troop, The Deep's strengths lie in fast-twitch plotting and an exuberantly hyper-caffeinated approach to the synthesis of its horror influences. Cutter doesn't invent new horrors, but he does throw so many old ones at the reader in sometimes strikingly odd combinations that the effect is often one of horror born of a startling novelty of contrast. 

To cite one example, The Deep presents scenes of horrified claustrophobia that riff on antecedents such as John Carpenter's version of The Thing, Alien, and a host of other works that present isolated people under siege by Terrible Things. But in the midst of this, scenes reminiscent of Stephen King's "The Boogeyman" suddenly break out. And then we're plunged into a backstory of the abused childhoods of the vet and his brother. And then back to a new supernatural or science-fictional horror. And for the bulk of the novel, this sort of on-going juxtaposition of science-fictional, supernatural, and psychological horror actually works.

Unfortunately, the engine blows up with about 100 pages to go. The novel seems to lose sight of its above-water McGuffin, The Gets, which have never been fully developed as a threat to humanity. Indeed, the novel could have functioned quite well without The Gets, given how under-developed and under-shown this plague is. Cutter's synthetic horror cavalcade begins to replicate the content of his influences too closely, with a scene lifted almost verbatim from Carpenter's The Thing being just one example. There's also a lengthy bit involving mutated honeybees that's a weak riff on George R.R. Martin's "Sandkings." And a riff on a bit from Stephen King's "The Raft" that gets used once too often. A lovable dog also wears out its welcome.

These failures might have been survivable had the last fifty pages not degenerated into Basil Exposition's Nude House of Wacky Body Horror. We finally learn the secrets of what has really been going on. Well, sort of. But we learn these things from anthropomorphized antagonists who cackle and snark like the bitchiest of Joss Whedon's bitchy Big Bads. We get a very, very old science-fictional and horror trope as an explanation for the horror's existence in the Marianas Trench. We get about 40 pages of Cutter doing a bad imitation of Laird Barron, one with neither menace nor wit but only a gushy, goopy tide of bodily atrocities. We get a damp squib of an ending. We get characters behaving as stupidly and helplessly as characters can act. The end. 

Oh, for a couple of flame-throwers or a convenient nuclear bomb. They too would be borrowings, but they'd be welcome borrowings. Nuke the sight from orbit. Absolutely goddamned right.

Oh, well. The Deep really is a page-turner for 80% of its not-inconsiderable length. However, if you're one of those people who get annoyed by tiny, short little chapters in the manner of The Da Vinci Code or a novel meant for fourth-graders, steer clear. These are some of the shortest chapters you're ever going to encounter in a novel aimed at adults. Lightly recommended.

The Blair Witch Project Dossier by D.A. Stern and others (1999): As with the In Search of... style 'documentary' that promoted The Blair Witch Project on the SciFi and Space Channels when the movie came out in 1999, this book is better than the movie it promotes. The Blair Witch Project Dossier comprises fake newspaper articles, interview transcripts, historical records, photos, period illustrations, and hand-written letters and journals. It's old-school documentary horror of which Poe or Lovecraft might have approved. 

There's real wit here, whether in a name-check of one of Lovecraft's creepy backwoods characters or in subtle and fascinating implications dotted throughout the historical portions of the text. These things suggest a horror much larger and older than that which we see in the movie. They also offer a context for the scenes in the house that makes the events of the movie seem even worse. However, no explanation is offered for why those two bozos are fishing in two inches of water. Recommended.