The goal of a really good pop mash-up is not to forget that you’ve heard this riff, not to see past the repetition of that particular plot device, not to ignore all the bits stolen from this Stephen King novel or that one. No, some of the pleasure comes from the way the text invites you to revel in your own expertise, sets up a call-and-response with the geeky fan/reader.
With THE TROOP, Nick Cutter (a pseudonym barely even trying to serve as a disguise) puts on that fake, porny name and a confident snarling smile, and takes no pains to cover up the novel’s debt to various predecessors.
New England’s small towns sure do suffer from a surplus of shit going down. If you stick just to Stephen King, you find a map of dysfunctional communities stricken by vampires, aliens, ass weasels, invisible domes. And while his particular impact on the horror genre is acute, King is open about his own influences, from Shirley Jackson to Grace Metalious.
That last reference signals generic conventions beyond the supernatural, tilting toward the soap-operatic. And Christopher Golden’s SNOWBLIND seems more certain in its melodrama than as spookfest, offers more of a new spin through PEYTON PLACE, despite the paranormal plot.
In the prologue to his latest novel, Adam Cesare sends a very likable — a quickly yet expertly sketched — retired couple wandering into the forest, happening upon a Dionysian campfire party populated by scruffy but polite young people. A bonfire roars and plastic cups filled with a potent alcoholic concoction are tossed back. The older couple first revel in the memories of a youthful energy and release, but as the dancing gets more frenetic and frisky, their pleasure shifts to apprehension.
And then things go south.
The narrator of Jeff VanderMeer’s unsettling, gorgeous ANNIHILATION is part of a four-person team sent into the maw of Area X. Years ago, something happened: A huge swath of seaboard territory (the Southern Reach) was invaded or transformed, all human inhabitants lost or out of contact, a pervasive and perverse strangeness altering the ecology of the place.
The government over the decades since has sent in expedition after expedition. Some of these surveyors disappear. Some return, but are stricken by a strange amnesia, uncertain of what happened or even who they are. The latest team knows some of what came before, although information about prior surveys is restricted — so they know that something happened, something undefinably awful (or awe-ful).
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I’ll blame the flies. A NECESSARY END, a slim novel from co-writers Sarah Pinborough and F. Paul Wilson, brings us a new kind of apocalypse.
When is a plague not a plague? When it’s not actually a disease, but a reaction to some deadly African flies that have gone global. We follow investigative reporter Nigel as he comes home from digging into this deadly epidemic. Once he arrives, he has to deal with his wife, who believes that it’s the reckoning and she is ready for her destiny.