by Ira Levin
Rosemary’s Baby is a classic horror novel following Rosemary, a young woman settling into a new apartment with her partner Guy. I hesitate to say anything more than that for anyone unaware of what happens in this book, just because I went in not knowing much and enjoyed the crazy ride.
This novel is an exercise in building tension. While the revelations don’t happy until the last 1/5 of the novel, there’s this feeling of dread throughout, from the nightmares to other people’s strange behaviour, that honestly left me feeling sick with how worried I was for Rosemary. She’s a character you can’t help but care about and align yourself with, especially for me as a young woman. I found myself in her shoes more than once, and it’s horrifying.
Ultimately, this is a story about a woman’s agency and the brutalisation of women’s bodies. There’s conversation surrounding assault and rape, and the lengths people will go to in order to silence women on their understanding of their own bodies. It’s so thorough it honestly shocked me realising a man wrote this, just because the understanding of women’s emotions feels so personal.
[Also? Guy is the worst man in horror. Honestly a disgusting pig, I feel no shame in saying that. Amazing that he’s featured in the same novel as the best man in horror, Hutch.]
Content warning: Death, description of rape and sexual assault, illness in tandem with pregnancy, death of children
The Quiet Boy
by Nick Antosca
The Quiet Boy is the short story the new Scott Cooper directed horror film ‘ANTLERS’ is inspired by. Julia, a newly arrived teacher to a small town, begins to grow worried for the withdrawn Lucas after reading a sinister story he wrote for class.
A short, thrilling tale, The Quiet Boy is hostile from the start. I really appreciate the care Julia has for students, while you still see an inner turmoil in her that’s selfish and vain. I think her characterisation, and that of Lucas, who is fragile and fearful, is really well done in such a short piece of fiction. It never feels like too much is crammed in to the story.
The horror is framed, initially, around child abuse, and that’s a very real issue in modern society that many teachers and other adults find themselves in the position of having to either choose to confront or ignore. I think grounding the horror like that made it more understandable in character motivations, and I really hope this is carried over into the film and isn’t lost in translation.
Content warning: death, child abuse, descriptions of dead bodies, child death
by Katherine Arden
Dead Voices is the sequel to Small Spaces, a middle grade horror I very much enjoyed, and I think this lived up to my expectations. This book finds Ollie, Coco and Brian shipped off to Mount Hemlock with their parents on a Winter skiing break, finally moving on from what happened with the Smiling Man– only to find themselves in the middle of another haunting, this time more sinister– and more deadly– than the last.
Katherine Arden can write horror. I actually fear for these characters and worry they won’t come back from these hauntings, even though this is a middle grade and, realistically, it could scar children by killing off characters they’ve grown so attached to. But I wouldn’t put it past her, which only makes this story that much more exciting to read.
There’s a lot of claustrophobic horror, the introduction of new sinister villains, and the intense cold that carries through in Arden’s writing really adds to how chilling the hauntings are. She has a stunning style of writing, and I’m glad to see these books being themed around seasons– Small Spaces is Autumn, Dead Voices is Winter. It just makes it feel like there’s more of a progression to the stories linking them together, and I’m excited to see what Arden does with Spring and Summer.
I also love how tropes and cliches are subverted. Ollie, Coco and Brian always overcome miscommunication and arguments realistically, actually talking to each other about things, and I’m glad for a middle grade that doesn’t underestimate its younger characters. You can see how their relationships have changed and grown without feeling like you’ve missed out on anything in the time jump between books. Coco finally got the recognition she deserves, too, and I’m looking forward to more Brian in book three!
Content warning: brief child death, mention of death of a parent
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