Autodidact: self-taught


Purity by Douglas Clegg

by V. L. Craven

Title and author: Purity by Douglas Clegg

Genre: Horror…sort of

What led you to pick up the book?  It was in the first set of e-books I bought through  StoryBundle . It was a great deal on several horror/fantasy books, which is a genre I’m trying to become more familiar with.

Summarize the plot without revealing the ending. A boy,Owen, living on a small island meets and begins worshipping a Lovecraftian monster. He asks only one thing: for the girl that he sees only at the summers. He loves her when he first sees her. She is purity.

The summer after the both of them finish high school, she shows up on the island with a boy. A boy who is moneyed and self-assured. And very possessive of the girl.

Owen knows this is wrong–Jimmy should not have Jenna. Jenna has always been his. So he formulates a plan.

What did you like most? I’m still getting to grips with horror as a genre and am recovering from my literary fiction snobbishness, so I liked (was surprised by) how well it was written. The writing wasn’t luminous, but I also have no complaints, which is saying something. I enjoyed the plot, which I thought was going to be predictable but turned out to be anything but. The general tone was Lovecraftian at times. The tone also reminded me of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History  in that there’s a coldness to the protagonist, who is also trying to fit in with a set of privileged teens.

Also, the story is told from four different points of view and each character, when narrating, had their own voice. This is difficult to do and Clegg handled it well. He also captured the variety of forces at work on hormonal teenage boys and the ways those forces manifest in a way that felt organic.

What did you dislike?  Whilst the writing is fine overall, there are some clumsy phrases. ‘Spring shat out of winter in New England,’ springs to mind.

Give an opinion on the ending  Surprising. It did not go the way I’d thought it would do (in a good way). I also liked that we’re never told if the boy’s god from the deeps, Dagon, is really exerting force in his life or if it’s all in his head. And I do love unreliable narrators.

Overall Rating: 7/10



Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse

by V. L. Craven

Following on from Otsuichi’s GOTH, I picked up a copy of Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse , which is two novellas (the other is Black Fairy Tale ) and a short story ‘Yuko’ .

Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse is about two children (brother and sister) who accidentally (or not?) kill a young girl and spend the story trying to hide her body from the people searching for her. The story is told from the p.o.v. of the girl’s corpse. The boy has a crush on a nineteen-years-old girl, Midori, whom his sister admires. They finally decide to throw the body down a shaft at the top of a shrine and have no choice but to do so during the annual summer firework display. Using a pulley, they manage to get the body to the top and when they follow, they find Midori waiting. She’d worked out what happened and helped get rid of the body, something at which she had a great deal of practise, as she’d been killing boys that looked like the boy. At the end of the story, she holds the boy and hopes she can stop.

Signature Otsuichi–simply written, but interesting, plot-wise

Black Fairy Tale : We start with a story about a a raven who befriends a girl with no eyes. (Ravens can learn to speak just like parrots.) He wants her to be able to see, so he plucks eyes from people and brings them to the girl. When she puts them in her sockets, she can see the things the people could see. She keeps the eyes in a jar beneath her bed. That is a short story, which proceeds between the story of a young woman who has an eye transplant and begins seeing what the original owner of the eye sees. Visions that become increasingly disturbing and hint at a gruesome crime and kidnapping. She travels to his village in order to help the victims and gets more than she bargained for. The perpetrator turns out to be the man who wrote the story about the raven, who discovered at a young age that if he maimed something in a way that would normally be fatal, that thing (human or animal) would continue living in a new, mutilated state. He has several…creatures in his house by the time the police find them. .

The pacing was very well-done but this one is NOT for the squeamish.

‘Yuko’ : A young woman begins working in a large house, which she enjoys but wonders about the mistress of the house, as she’s never around and the master insists she stay out of their room. Eventually her curiosity gets the better of her and she goes into the bedroom, which is lined with dolls with blank faces either laughing or crying. The lady of the house, Yuko, is also a doll. The master insists she’s unwell. When she’s ‘well’, she speaks to him in a harsh whisper. Upon talking to a previous servant, the girl discovers his first wife died two years previously (she’s buried in the back garden) and Yuko is his second wife. In order to help him accept that she’s a doll, the girl sets her on fire. The master sees this as his wife being on fire and tries to damp the flames. He winds up in a mental hospital, where he blames the girl’s difficult family life for her psychosis in believing his wife was a doll.

I thought this one would be predictable, but Otsuichi managed to slip in a surprise. Nice one.

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