July 31, 2003
The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates: normally I love anthologies and enjoy reading them greatly, but this one was an exception.

I’ve mentioned before that while I don’t mind “vague” stories - stories where you don’t really know what’s going on, who the people are, or why they’re there - full books of them always are tedious for me to make my way through. Unfortunately, most of the stories is The Collector of Hearts were of the vague kind, so I didn’t really enjoy the book and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

There were some good stories in it - notably “The Sky Blue Ball,” “Death Mother,” “Schroeder’s Stepfather,” “The Sepulchre,” “The Sons of Angus Macelster,” “The Affliction,” “Unprintable,” “Valentine,” and “The Crossing.” Mostly these stories had less of a vagueness to them and I felt it easier to connect to the characters.

All in all, not a bad book, but not really recommended unless you’re a fan of the short story or of her.

July 27, 2003
Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker

Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker: I hadn’t reread any of Clive Barker’s books in quite some time, so when a co-worker and I ended up discussing some of his short stories, I had to immediately re-purchase the Books of Blood and immerse myself back into Clive Barker’s world.

These stories are extremely visceral and it’s easy to see why the term “splatterpunk” was coined with this type of writing in mind. His stories are very graphic and seem to have an underlying theme behind them - even though something horrible may be incredible horrible (a pig that speaks with a dead boy’s voice, for example), these events are still awe-inspiring in the truest since of the word and the way that the human mind reacts to them can be widely different than one would expect.

To me, Barker’s stories herein (and in most of his other work), the world exists with a veil that can be drawn away at any time. When I got done watching The Matrix for the first time, I was struck with the similarities between that world and the worlds that Barker creates.

Truthfully, I didn’t enjoy all of these stories as much as I did when I read them probably a little over ten years ago. However, many of them were still as strong and as moving as they were then. The best of these are “The Book of Blood,” “The Midnight Meat Train,” “In The Hills, The Cities” (probably my favorite story of his ever), “Dread,” “Hell’s Event,” “Jacqueline Ess: Her Last Will and Testament,” “The Skins of the Fathers,” “Son of Celluloid,” and “Rawhead Rex.”

If you like your stories strong and disturbing this collection is for you. If not, may be best that you skip, but you’ll never know until you try.