Tag Archives: horror

What the Hell Did I Just Read

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews What the Hell Did I Just Read [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by David Wong (now revealed as a pseudonym of Jason Pargin), book 3 of the John Dies at the End series.

Wong Pargin What the Hell Did I Just Read

The third “John and Dave” cosmic horror-comedy novel is a little closer in spirit to the first than the second, I think. The central cast of Dave, John, and Amy is unchanged. The setting in the small Midwestern US city of “[Undisclosed]” this time features riparian flooding as a difficulty (unremarkable climate change and infrastructural neglect) incidental and basically unrelated to the main threat of invasion by mind-controlling entities from another dimension.

This volume’s slightly lower overall count of dick jokes is more than compensated by a correspondingly higher number of ass jokes. It reads at a hectic pace. Readers who enjoyed the previous books should appreciate this one too, and while This Book Is Full of Spiders is certainly worth reading, it would be possible to read this third book directly after John Dies at the End with no greater sense of disorientation than the books deliberately offer in their published sequence.

In an afterword in his own voice, writer Jason Pargin sets aside his David Wong character to remark that he doesn’t view the three books as a completed trilogy, and to offer some earnest words about mental health, lest anyone take the wrong lesson from his stories of flawed reality-testing–as he seems to think that certain of his correspondents have done.

But horror
Seizes on the heart of the judicious.
They see only madness and destruction
In the mockery’s self innate, implicit.
Horror, deeper grief, most dreadful musings
Theirs who penetrate the poet’s purpose!

Aleister Crowley, Oracles, Sabbe Pi Dukkham

Hermetic quote Crowley Oracles horror seizes heart madness destruction mockery self innate explicit deeper grief dreadful musings penetrate poet purpose

Len Deighton was not an author of spy thrillers but of horror, because all Cold War–era spy thrillers rely on the existential horror of nuclear annihilation to supply a frisson of terror that raises the stakes of the games their otherwise mundane characters play. And in contrast, H. P. Lovecraft was not an author of horror stories—or not entirely—for many of his preoccupations, from the obsessive collection of secret information to the infiltration and mapping of territories controlled by the alien, are at heart the obsessions of the thriller writer.

Charles Stross, The Atrocity Archives [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Stross The Atrocity Archives spy trillers existential horror nuclear annihilation frisson terror secret information mapping territories alien heart writer

A shock wave of horror shuddered through Memorial Hall as people realized how many of their neighbors and friends, in the safety of anonymity, had been seduced by sensationalism and gut feelings. There was cheering and there was anger, there were those who cried and those who screamed for a rebellion, but most were satisfied that justice had been done.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hex [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Heuvelt Hex shock wave horror people safety anonymity seduced by sensationalism gut feelings

The smell pierced her. It coiled and drifted and wove through her, conjuring the last drip of whiskey in her father’s crystal decanter, the first strawberries of summer, the last scrap of Christmas pudding smeared over gold-chased bone china and licked off with lazy tongue swipes. It smelled like a sticky wetness on her fingers, coaxed out of a pretty girl in the cloak room at a Mayfair ball, slipped into a pair of silk gloves and placed on a young colonel’s scarlet shoulder during the waltz.

Kelly Robson, A Human Stain [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Robson A Human Stain smell pierced her coiled drifted wove conjuring whiskey sticky wetness

Growing on another, perhaps harsher world, it has different form and features. But it is just as much a legitimate child of Nature as you are. You are displaying that childish human weakness of hating the different.

John W Campbell, Who Goes There? [Amazon, Bookshop, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Campbell Who Goes There growing another harsher world different form features legitimate child of nature displaying childish human weakness hating different

He knew then there was no going back. All paths were closed to him except the plain horror of the present.

Matthew Lowes, Old Growth

Hermetic quote Lowe Growth present

The Nameless Quest in The Gate of the Sanctuary from The Temple of the Holy Ghost (Collected Works, Vol I) by Aleister Crowley.

“Yes, yes! let fancy sup
That grislier banquet than old Atreus9 planned!
Mind cannot fathom, nor the brain conceive,
Nor soul assimilate, nor heart believe
The horror of that Thing without a Name.
Full on me, boasting, like Death’s hand it came,
And struck me headlong.” [via]

Aleister Crowley notes on this text: 9. Atreus, King of Mycenae, gave a banquet of pretended reconciliation to his half-brother Thyestes, at which the two sons of Thyestes were served up.