Author Topic: I can't believe I almost didn't read this book [MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS]  (Read 1256 times)

ryos

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I hate genres. Genres suck.

Despite reading numerous glowing reviews, and despite receiving your numerous assurances, and despite even reading the first chapter in the bookstore before buying it, I still went into I Am Not a Serial Killer expecting something at least resembling horror. I thought it might be a little dark, and more than a little disturbing, and even fairly gruesome, but it was none of those things. (Okay, it was a little gruesome, but not in a disturbing way.)

I stubbornly continued to cling to these notions because I was told it was a horror novel, and that's what I've come to expect from horror.

The first couple of chapters are the most disturbing in the book, and not because of all the embalming. It comes from the foreignness of looking through the eyes of someone with antisocial personality disorder. Sociopathy is not something I have any experience with; it's alien and scary, and coming face to face with it had me a little weirded out.

Then, I got to know John better, and I realized just how human he is. He has a crippling disorder, but then, so do I; all humans do. We're humanówe're imperfect. We all have to struggle to rise above our baser natures and be good in spite of ourselves. John has to fight harder than most, but the amazing and inspirational thing is that he does.

Yes, I'm inspired by John Cleaver. His story is uplifting, and it makes me want to be a better person. I Am Not a Serial Killer took me on an emotional roller costeróI felt bad for John, I worried for John; I gloried in his triumphs and sorrowed for his failures; I laughed and, yes, at the end I cried. It gripped me and held me tight, and I could scarcely put it down.

What it did not ever do was scare me. "Horror" my foot. I want a sticker that says "I Am Not a Horror Novel" that I can stick on the cover.

Anyway, sorry for rambling at you, but I had to type that out and post it somewhere. You know how it goes.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 03:19:01 PM by Nessa »
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Shivertongue

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Re: I can't believe I almost didn't read this book [MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS]
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2010, 10:36:22 AM »
POSSIBLE SPOILERS. I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure I avoided anything big. Just in case, though, here's your warning.

Some parts of I Am Not A Serial Killer and Mr Monster scared me, specifically the aspects that had to do with John's sociopathy. I think this might be because I share a hobby with Dan Wells, that of researching serial killers, and I've read countless stories and essays and psychological evaluations of real serial killers. What they have done, and what they are capable of, is scarier to me than any monster or supernatural creature.

I don't read a lot of horror, specifically for this reason - when I read horror, I want to be scared. I want to be dreading every turn of the page for the terror that might be unleashed as I continue. Most horror doesn't scare me for the above reasons; supernatural elements, etc, simply because I know they are not real. Serial killers are real, and they can be almost anyone. And that's what I find terrifying.

IANASK and Mr Monster, and the third book, Full of Holes (which I haven't read yet), would be more properly classified as psychological horror. Not because of the supernatural elements, but because of the point-of-view/protagonist character. John Cleaver is a sociopath, and completely capable of becoming one of the people both he and I have researched extensively, completely capable of committing acts like Jeffery Dahmer, Denis Radar, Jerry Brudos and every other serial killer that has come before. A good deal of the horror comes from watching John, experiencing through him the bloody and brutal urges he suppresses, and wondering whether or not he is going to succumb.

That's one of the things that makes Dan Wells' writing so fantastic, I think - the reader is made to care for this character who they cannot empathize with because he has no empathy, and made to care for him very quickly in the story. And because we care about him, seeing him struggle with his murderous impulses and psychopathic desires, we begin to fear he may succumb. For me, this is where much of the horror came from - to combat this demon, how much of his darker side will he unleash? How far will he go? Even if he wins, will it overwhelm him and cause him to lose himself to the monster within?

And if he falls to his inner demon... how horrible will the acts he perpetrates become? There is a scene in the second book, which I won't mention the detail of in any way, that terrified me because of this fear for John. Psychological horror is the perfect way to describe this book, because it's not the gore or the violence that's scary, it's the characters themselves. Their fears and beliefs and emotional instability are what drive the tension up, not the fear of the next body to be found.

This started off as just a response to ryos' post, and seems to have developed into a semi-study/review of the book itself. I loved it because it managed to do what no horror has managed in a long time. It scared me, and I loved it. I can't wait to get my hands on Full of Holes.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 03:19:22 PM by Nessa »
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ryos

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Re: I can't believe I almost didn't read this book [MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS]
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2010, 12:24:07 AM »
I thought my first post was pretty spoiler-free, but this one won't be. ;)

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IANASK and Mr Monster, and the third book, Full of Holes (which I haven't read yet), would be more properly classified as psychological horror. Not because of the supernatural elements, but because of the point-of-view/protagonist character. John Cleaver is a sociopath, and completely capable of becoming one of the people both he and I have researched extensively, completely capable of committing acts like Jeffery Dahmer, Denis Radar, Jerry Brudos and every other serial killer that has come before. A good deal of the horror comes from watching John, experiencing through him the bloody and brutal urges he suppresses, and wondering whether or not he is going to succumb.

I guess I wasn't scared of John because, for whatever reason, I trusted him not to give in too far. The first sections of the book showed how very strong his will is, so I trusted that. And, well, he mostly did okay by my trust; I mean, what he did to Kay wasn't cool at all, but I never really believed he was going to kill her.

I think this is the first "psychological horror" that I've read, so maybe my perception of what makes a horror is skewed. My picture of horror comes from writers like Stephen King, whose stories are typically dark and disturbing, and leave me with an ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don't like that ugly feeling, so I avoid horror, but IANASK didn't affect me that way.

Quote
That's one of the things that makes Dan Wells' writing so fantastic, I think - the reader is made to care for this character who they cannot empathize with because he has no empathy, and made to care for him very quickly in the story.

I'll disagree with thatóI did empathize very strongly with John. Not with his condition, which I don't really understand, but with his struggle, which is my own. No, I don't have to struggle to keep from killing people, but I do have to struggle to overcome the natural man and live up to the high standard set by my faith.

(I'm not trying to turn this into a religious discussion, but I can't explain how I feel about this book without bringing my religion into it.)
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 12:29:14 AM by ryos »
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firstRainbowRose

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Re: I can't believe I almost didn't read this book [MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS]
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2010, 12:31:06 AM »
I'm not reading the replies (I haven't read it yet) but here's Dan's thoughts on the horror thing.  (As in, this is what he just said five minutes ago).  "I call it psychological thriller because it avoids all the entanglement of 'horror' ".
"The custom of royalty in referring to oneself is to naturally employ the royal 'we'.† We are very happy, we are very sad, we are bored and suffer from ennui.† For a royal prince there's no such word as 'me', It's always 'we'.† So rightfully I should be two or three, don't you agree?"