Tag: Brutal

Oli Jacobs – Wilthaven | Review

Title: Wilthaven

Author: Oli Jacobs

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 396

Rating: 4.25/5

I’ve read about a dozen of Jacobs’ books by this point, and all of them have been worth reading. This one is cool because you can read it as a standalone but it also still functions as part of a wider realm. It’s almost King-like in that respect, and indeed I think King would approve of it because it lives up to his saying that “there are other worlds than these”.

Wilthaven follows the BPD, the Bureau of Paranormal Detectives, and essentially documents their investigation into this strange, eldritch, Lovecraftian town called Wilthaven where nothing is quite as it seems. It’s almost reminiscent of Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae series in the way that it plays with layout, except I didn’t finish Illuminae while I tore through this one and had a blast while I was at it.

What’s quite cool here is that there’s a nice little range of genres, with a lot of Lovecraftian creepiness, some dark humour and some honest-to-goodness horror. One of my favourite bits was when a bunch of limbs just appeared out of nowhere. That was actually pretty brutal and not for the faint-hearted, but at this point I’m pretty sure there’s nothing I can read that will properly shock me. I’m immune.

There was also a pretty cool little subsection in it which was kind of a book within a book, and I think that it worked really well in context here. Because the book itself is presented as a dossier of documents, it makes sense that there’d be a book within a book. It worked better than Paul Sheldon’s book in Misery, in any case.

So would I recommend this one? Oh, absolutely, especially if you’re looking to read some more indie authors and to help to support the ecosystem. I’ve always enjoyed Oli’s stuff and this is him at his best, at least in my opinion. I’d take this over Kirk Sandblaster any day, and probably over another installment in the Filmic Cuts short stories series.

Oh, and did I mention that there’s a photo of yours truly in there? Oli was looking for volunteers to be featured in the Wilthaven files, and I of course jumped at the opportunity. Even though it’s a super old photograph. At least it’s heavily stylised though.

Learn more about Wilthaven.

 


Haruki Murakami – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | Review

Title: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Author: Haruki Murakami

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 628

Rating: 4.5/5

I picked up this book as a buddy read with my friend Charlie, who’s also an excellent author in his own right. Buddy reads are almost always more fun than regular reads, but I think I would have still enjoyed this one regardless. That said, it did have at least one other impact because we read it three chapters a day instead of all in one go, and I think that helped me to take it a little more slowly and to savour it.

And there was plenty to savour here. Possibly one of my favourites was also the most brutal scene, in which someone got skinned alive with all the efficiency of someone peeling a peach. Murakami is a truly talented writer no matter what he’s writing about, which in this case meant that the whole scene was horrifically realistic, right down to the way that the man screamed.

I also like the sort of slight hallucinatory quality that the book has. It’s almost like a series of interrelated vignettes as opposed to a traditional novel, but it works really well and gives you something different as a reader that you might not have been expecting. I’ve read Murakami a bunch of times before of course, but he takes things in a slightly different direction here.

There’s almost something timeless about the storytelling here, and you have to give Murakami credit for that. Credit is also very much due to Jay Rubin too, who’s the translator here. I was stoked to see that when I picked it up because Rubin is my favourite Murakami translator. I was excited to see that right on the credits page, and the book just kept on getting better from there.

Another memorable series of scenes are those that took place at the bottom of wells. There was something deeply disturbing about those scenes, and you could really sense the claustrophobia. To be honest, it’s making me feel a little bit weird just thinking back to them.

What’s interesting about Murakami is that he has this knack of writing stories that are slow paced and meandering but which still definitely go somewhere. They’re the kind of books where it feels like anything can happen, and that’s what makes Murakami so readable. This here feels as though it might be his equivalent of The Stand, and there’s certain that kind of epic quality to it.

But perhaps it’s more like Cloud Atlas or something like that, because it all takes place in our own world and there are none of the supernatural hijinks that come along with Stephen King, who I guess is the closest I can think of to Murakami when it comes to making fictional characters seem realistic while writing about the darker sides of humanity.

To be honest, when I got started on this book, all I knew about it was that it was a Murakami novel and that Charlie wanted to read it. I think I had a slight subconscious knowledge of it being quite a popular one amongst Murakami fans, but that’s about it. I’m glad that the buddy read gave me the impetus to pick it up and to order a copy in rather than just waiting until I spotted it in a charity shop.

So would I recommend this one? Oh hell yeah, I was very impressed by it. It might be kind of long if you’re new to Murakami, and I think most people probably start out with Norwegian Wood, but I think this book is a cracker no matter who wrote it. The fact that it’s a translation just makes it cooler.

Learn more about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.