“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”

the house on the borderland

 

I’m a pretty big horror fan. I graduated from Christopher Pike novels to Stephen King before I hit my teens. Naturally, I’m pretty familiar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft. So when I came across an author who Lovecraft named as a major influence on his work, I naturally had to give it a read. The similarities are apparent from page one. It has many of the ingredients of classic Lovecraft: cosmic horror, strange locals, unnamed horrors. It’s a must read for anyone who is a fan of Horror or just H.P. Lovecraft.

The story begins with two English gentlemen named Tonnison and Berreggnog who are taking a fishing trip to a remote Irish village. During their trip, they come across the ruins of a strange old house next to a lake where they find a partially dilapidated journal of someone whom they call The Recluse, who apparently lived in the house some time ago with his spinster sister and his faithful dog, Pepper. The journal details the increasingly bizarre and horrifying events occurring in the house and ends abruptly. The journal accounts for most of the book. After reading it the two men, already unnerved by the atmosphere around the old house agree never to return the the area.

The book does a good job of maintaining the feeling of unease and dread throughout the story. Even when the men have returned to the village proper, one is not completely at ease. The House on the Borderland is a pioneering classic of the cosmic horror genre.

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This is not my first apocalypse

swan song

As a fan of post-apocalypse fiction who cut her literary teeth on Stephen King, it was nearly impossible for me not to compare this book to The Stand. Both tell the story of a worldwide global Armageddon and its aftermath. Both follow the forces of good and evil as they converge for a final confrontation. Despite those very big similarities, they are very different books. In fact, I could probably write a short essay comparing the two. But since this review is supposed to be about Swan Song, I won’t.

This book, written during the Cold War, begins when the world ends with an all out nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The few who are not killed by the blast or the ensuing radiation poisoning are left to survive in frozen, dead wasteland. Heading up Team Good is Sue Wanda “Swan” Prescott, a young girl who has a seemingly empathic ability to commune with plant life. Heading up Team Evil is The Man With Many Faces or The Man With the Scarlet Eye who, it is implied, is The Devil or some sort of demon. Though the themes are certainly biblical, very little of the book is overtly Christian. In fact, imagery from the tarot deck is sprinkled throughout the story.

This was a great story, that I probably should have read many years ago. After over a decade of true crime and post-apocalypse fiction, I found myself mentally screaming at the characters as they walked into what I knew to be an obvious trap. I forgot that this was the first time the world had ended for them, whereas I had experienced it multiple times.