All Hallows’ Eve Read- Btooom! by Junya Inoue

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Can I play off murder as nothing more than a game!?

It’s not for nothing that Btooom! has a “Parental Advisory Warning” right on the front cover. Set in Japan this Battle Royale-esque manga follows protagonist Ryouta Sakamoto as he wakes up on a seamingly deserted island with little provisions, a bag of mysterious items and no memory of how he got there. After walking a short distance, and finding out that the mysterious items are a bunch of timed hand bombs, he finally comes across another human being. Unfortunately for Sakamoto this human immediately attempts to kill him. 

All this happens within the first chapter, and it quickly becomes clear to Sakamoto, and to readers, that the protagonist is stuck in some sort of death match. Though the details of the situation, the game rules and how he ended up there in the first place, doesn’t become clear till the 5th chapter, it is slowly revealed through clues and hints Sakamoto quickly picks up on that he’s being made to act out a popular online video game called Btooom! (a game our protagonist is more than a little familiar with as he’s one of the top international players). For our main character the horror and reality of it all doesn’t quite sink in until his first run in with another human, but that doesn’t compare to the horror of uncovering his memories of how he got to the island and the rules of the inescapable death match.

Despite being based on a video game this was a very well put together story with many similarities with Battle Royale but just enough uniqueness for it to distinguish itself as a separate piece. The main character, despite being an unemployed gamer and …well…a genuine a-hole before having his world ripped from him, is a very intelligent character capable of thinking up an array of strategies he cleverly employs and alters depending on the situation and his opponents. The other two main characters which aren’t introduced until later in this volume add a nice contrast to Sakamoto’s logical, but often thoughtful, personality. The other characters Sakamoto and his group end of encountering all either added to the suspense and thrill of the story as opponents (and there are some seriously psychologically messed up opponents here), or added to the progression of the plot/characters development. So while there had been plenty of action in this series so far, none of it has felt like mindless action.

This is an on-going series with 14 volumes currently available (17 volumes as of the end of May 2017), and after reading up to volume 6 I have to say it is well worth investing in. Other than a few sexually explicit scenes (I will warn you from now sexual assault, though never condoned, is something that has appeared a couple times throughout this story), I loved it. Each action scene, and even a lot of the dialogue, has included some amazing tactical maneuvers or served to really bring home the tension and fear saturated atmosphere, as well as the psychologically/emotionally damaging effects of being forced to live out a kill or be killed situation. 

This quickly turned out to be one of my favorite series, and one I avidly devour whenever I can get my hands on it. 8/10 Unicorn Horns

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All Hallows’ Reads-Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

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At the beginning of this month I set out to post a few horror-centric reviews in celebration of Halloween. I searched every ‘best of’ horror list I could find and combed through my shelves to find some good horror reads. I expected to be scared senseless by the end of the month and jumping every time I saw my own shadow. That most definitely did NOT happen! I find myself, as October comes to a close, on the cusp of declaring that ‘horror’ is just thrillers with some sort of paranormal activity. I know that there are some real horror stories out there and I actually read a few this month, but novels like Rosemary’s Baby had me outright laughing…hysterically.  I snort when I laugh…that’s about the only horrific thing that occurred!

Rosemary’s Baby follows the title character Rosemary, and her husband Guy as they move into a famous apartment complex in Manhattan, New York. They’ve have had their eyes on the apartment for quite some time and are thrilled at the prospect of being able to live there. After pulling out of a rental agreement that they had just recently signed the couple happily move into the ‘Bramford’. Shortly after moving into the Bramford they  meet their eccentric, odd, elderly neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet. On a trip to the building’s laundry area in the basement Rosemary meets Terry, a young woman who is living with the Castevets. Not too long after they meet and become friendly, Terry commits suicide. This sparks an opportunity for an acquaintance to develop between the two couples that leads into a friendship of sorts.

The story is well written. I initially feared that the writing and language used would be a barrier stopping me from understanding the story and from being able to get the mood/tone of the novel. This was not the case and I quite enjoyed the writing style. The story was well thought out and the execution was purposeful. If not for darling Rosemary’s complete naivety and borderline idiocy the story would have been great! I just could NOT get over how ignorant she was about practically E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! By the time we got to the climax of the novel, all I could do was shake the book in frustration and groan “I saw that coming a mile away….and Rosemary sure as F**K should’ve seen it too!”. As we made our way to an attempt at conflict resolution I had already stopped caring about what happened to Rosemary and was slightly wishing something would just kill her so I could be rid of her for what little was left of the book at that point. I  want to attribute her lack of overall “life wisdom” to the era in which this novel took place. I’m not knowledgeable on the 60s, so I shall give Rosemary the benefit of the doubt and blame her ignorance on a lack of access to information. Even with that consideration steadily running through my mind while I read the book I still had a hard time reading past Rosemary’s character.

The novel has a very creepy, sinister undertone running throughout and Levin does a fantastic job of conveying that. There were a lot of different things that were done extremely well and a level of suspense that is sustained until whatever revelations occur take place. The writing is very easy to follow and conversational, which adds to the overall readability of the story. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this novel as a Horror, but as more of a Psychological Thriller with aspects of Suspense and a dash of the Paranormal. Taking out my negative bias towards Rosemary’s character, I think Rosemary’s Baby was a good novel and I can absolutely see why it has been revered as a novel that helped to instigate an obsession with the Occult in North America in the decades following its release. I would recommend this novel to readers who maybe want to try reading some horror, but don’t want to be too traumatized by things jumping at them, going BOO! The novel definitely has that suspenseful factor that will maintain a level of frightful anticipation without being over-the-top. I give this novel between 5 and 6.5 unicorn horns out of 10, depending on which aspect of the novel I’m critiquing.

 

 

 

Wytches by Scott Snyder & Jock

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This comic has got to be one of the best horror stories I’ve come across in  a very long time, but not because it was amazingly told or had mind-blowing characters or anything like that. The characters and stories are good with a couple twists and development here and there, but to be completely honest they were nothing all that special in my opinion. Yet this is still what I would call one of the best, simply because it had what I consider REAL horror. That’s it. As someone who grew up watching movies like Poltergeist, Hannibal, Chucky, Pet Cemetery, and just about every Steven Speilberg movie out there I haven’t been too impressed with the type of horror movies being put out today (enjoyable stuff, but they tend to lean much more towards thrillers/straight up gore than horror). This story, however, is a much appreciated throwback to my good old type of horror story.

Wytches is a story surrounding a small family, Charlie, Lucy, and primarily their daughter Sailor, after they move to a small town in the hopes of starting over and escaping past trauma. Unfortunately their problems are the type to slowly creep after them no matter where they try to hide.

This was, for me, a pretty clichéd horror story what with the whole family moving to a new town before shit hits the fan thing, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment. Sailor was the type of main character I enjoy getting to watch stumble and grow, and Charlie (her father and arguably the real main character) was everything I look for in a main horror story character- brave, weak, strong, smart, and genuinely terrified. It would have been great if the story was a bit longer but the extent to which Snyder fleshed out his characters personalities (namely Charlie) was very impressive. The art was beautiful, though some of the colouring actually made some scenes a bit hard to understand.

A really good story for those looking for a great Halloween Read and aren’t afraid of few graphic scenes here and there. Personally it’s around a 7/10 but overall I think it’s a lot closer to 6.5/10 Unicorn Horns overall.

 

All Hallows’ Reads-The Shining by Stephen King

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 Stephen King’s The Shining follows the three members of the Torrance family. Jack, a recovery alcoholic and writer, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. Jack’s wife, Wendy and their son, Danny follow Jack into the mountains where they will live throughout the winter after all guests and staff have vacated. Jack, who lost his previous job as an English teacher, feels that this is his last hope to provide a stable income for his family. Being secluded for the winter months at the Overlook offers the added bonus of being able to work on the play that he has been unable to complete for some time. Unbeknownst to his parents, Danny is ‘a shiner’, and has psychic abilities, which seem to grow dark in the midst of their looming move to the hotel.

Well, I read my first Stephen King novel The Long Walk about two weeks ago and then decided to move on to one of his well-known horror novels…and ended up reading this novel. Partly because it was the only ‘horror’ novel of King’s that was available at the library and partly because I wanted to be able to start a series of reviews for the upcoming and fast approaching Halloween, I decided to finally give this novel a go. I feel as if everyone and their grandmother has read this book and/or seen the movie adaptation.

I had expected this novel to scare me to my core and although that didn’t end up being the case, I feel that this is a great haunting psychological thriller with paranormal occurrences and a suspenseful plot. King does a brilliant job of really going in depth with the story. I think I had expected to jump straight into horror and gore without much of a back story, buildup, or without getting a lot of history on the family. There is actually a good portion of the novel that is dedicated to events that occur prior to the families arrival at the hotel. This is actually incredibly important to the execution of the story. Without all that history and time spent with each character’s thoughts and feelings the ending of the story would have fell flat and have been not even a fraction as effective as it ended up being…and I think that setup for the conclusion was my favorite thing about the story and highlights how structurally sound it is. 

I felt that the most developed and fleshed out character was Jack. This surprised me because I assumed that it would be Danny, seeing as he was the one with the ‘shine’ . That’s not to say that Danny was underdeveloped as a character, refreshingly enough, his character was incredibly mature and well thought out considering his young age of five. By far the least likeable and relatable of the Torrace clan was Wendy, she became a quite annoying to be towards the end of the book. 

Overall, I throughly enjoyed my reading experience and give this novel 8-out of-10 unicorn horns. 

Immortal Hounds by Ryo Yasohachi

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I randomly happened to pick this one up during my “walk through” the bookstore a.k.a 3hr book hunt. I’d never heard of this fairly newly released book before, the mangaka a.k.a author or the manga itself, but I decided the bad-ass looking cover coupled with the interesting title made it worth checking out, though to be honest I actually thought it wouldn’t be interesting enough for me to want to keep it. I was wrong. This was a really good read that exceeded my expectations on every point. The characters weren’t bland, the plot, though consisting of themes not entirely original, wasn’t at all generic and I think Yasohachi successfully made the story his own. 

I won’t go into much detail past the first couple pages or reveal anything past the 2nd chapter as the mystery and desire to put all the puzzle pieces together is part of why I’ll now be stalking each release date, but this story is set in an alternative universe where humans are immortal.  Things start off with a bang…literally, and surrounds two opposing characters- Shin’ichi Kenzaki, a young detective hunting and detaining humans infected with RDS (Resurrection Deficiency Syndrome), and a mysterious woman part of those known as ‘Escape Artists’ who show up to snatch such humans away from the Task Force, generally in a very violent manner. In a world where humans have taken to killing themselves to ‘reset’ and heal from any illnesses/injures RDS is a new and very terrifying disease that turns humans mortal. Kenzaki’s job (which he is hell bent on completing) is to hunt these offending people, called Vectors, no longer considered human by the government and send them to a facility for extermination, but the Anti-Vector Police Task Force begins to meet opposition when an Escape Artist comes tearing through the scene sending limbs flying to rescue these infected humans (though actual deaths are rare queasy readers should stay clear).

Though the whole immortality thing has been toyed with many times already I don’t know of any other stories that have put this type of twist on it. It was very interesting to see the Yasohachi’s take on how widespread human immortality would change and effect human society and can’t wait to delve deeper into this world, no seriously, why isn’t the next volume out yet?! Yasohachi’s world building and pacing are great and I’m pretty surprised it’s not more popular…could be that I’m just really out of touch lol. One thing I absolutely love about this series so far is how everything is just a big shade of grey. The good and bad sides are not clearly defined leaving readers to make their own conclusions, and the character’s moral stances are often in question. The story is amazing so far with tons of unanswered questions I’m dying to have answered, and (THANK GOD) the story ended with me needing more in my life ASAP but not feeling like I’d go completely insane, wondering about in a confused daze, having violent outbursts directed at the people in charge of the release dates, and not knowing what to do with my life while waiting. Though the 3 week wait helps. As you could probably already tell, I despise cliffhangers lol.

 

Clearly there were plenty – characters, events, hints towards future events, and lack of information- to keep me coming back for more I’ll definitely continue collecting this series and recommend it to anyone looking for a good sci-fi, mystery, action, or really to anyone who wouldn’t be put off  by the violence. 

7.5 Unicorn Horns for now, but with the exception of getting a higher rating in later volumes.