I am on a creature horror kick right now. Although the trend in self-published creature horror seems to be dinosaurs and robot entities (god knows why; they’re kind of blah), I particularly like aquatic horror. The idea that the majority of the ocean hasn’t even been explored and you don’t know what’s living in its deepest darkest depths is already the most terrifying concept I can think of. What happens when (fictional) people learn the answer to the mystery? Seaspawn is a speculative fiction horror novel in asking “What if these humanesque creatures overpopulated the ocean and needed to spread out to land?” I was totally hooked by the synopsis but in the end I am 50/50 on whether I liked how this book played with the idea.
Up front, I’m going to tell you that I hate the way Edward Parker wrote this book. In the first seven or so chapters, readers are introduced to various characters who are vacationing in St. Meads, a tourist beach community. The novel opens with a small team of lobster fishers on a boat called The Esmeralda who are slaughtered by a seaspawn they were unfortunate enough to catch. In the second chapter readers meet the Collins family, who are visiting St. Meads at exactly the wrong time. A few chapters later the focus is on Keith Evans, a local restaurant owner who had money problems way before the seaspawn and did not need yet another problem to compound his cursed life. There are other characters as well but I would have to reread the novel to explain their purpose. As a good reviewer I have a responsibility to provide factual, accurate information, but let’s be honest for a second. If characters aren’t appealing enough for me to remember, they’re just not important. The point is that there is no one character that you can follow initially and in the middle and end of the novel when everyone’s paths converge, it’s not particularly important who they are. Here’s the thing: I loathe this style of writing and it was a potential deal-breaker for me. If you are a reader that can follow multiple characters’ storylines and you get into that deal, maybe this won’t be a problem for you. I just have to warn you because it did not endear me to this book and if there was nothing else redeeming then I would’ve given up.
The redeeming factor is the seaspawn themselves. An old homeless man named “Mick” refers to them as mermaids, which they are definitely not. What they are is the fictional creation of author Edward Parker, and they’re pretty creative. They are humanesque in some ways. They have all the basic human body parts that allow them to feed, fight, and basically function on land as they would in the water. They are such a threat because they are semi-immortal; the only thing that can kill them is firebombs dropped on the St. Meads’ community. I would assume that the idea Parker is playing with is that of the “four elements”, water is more powerful than everything but fire. Anyway, when these seaspawn come out of the ocean for new land, they are dead-set on making it theirs. They aren’t scared of humans even though they’re not familiar with humans and being physically attacked by their human victims/prey doesn’t phase them at all. I like reading about creatures that are bloodthirsty and emotionless. Parker could’ve easily written a novel where some of the seaspawn become pets of the tourists and break from their animalistic instincts, but instead he writes them to be all about the food and generally unpleasant little things. I enjoyed reading about these creatures and I’m disappointed that they weren’t featured in a better-written novel.
There was one other thing I genuinely liked about this novel, but I’m cautious to explain what it is because it’s the “end” of the novel and it would be a huge spoiler. I’ll leave you with this: Consider that these creatures are called seaspawn. What does the word “spawn” suggest to you?
I’m going to avoid giving an official recommendation because I realize that the things I disliked about this novel are liked by other readers. There’s nothing horribly wrong with this novel from a storytelling perspective (as in, everything is justified and Parker leaves no loose ends) and there were no obvious grammar or spelling errors that I picked up on. I would just recommend that if you purchase this novel, be sure to read other reviews so that you know what to expect in advance. Finally, I want to add that I am not turned off from this author. Edward Parker has written other novels that sound interesting and I’d be willing to give them a chance. He has excellent concepts in his novels, so I’d like to give him a fair chance to impress me with other works.
Usually I would be posting about an entire website or horror reading material (book or magazine) but I think the article “Haunted House Myths Confirmed and Debunked ” written by author Carly Ledbetter for the Huffington Post is totally worth reading. I implore you to avoid the comments because some people are such thick-headed skeptics that they blow off the article by yelling “Science! Science! Science!” Did you know that science hasn’t been able to prove or deny the existence of spirits because the occurings, even residual hauntings, don’t conform to the scientific method? When one studies the supernatural, there has to be an alternative way to approach it because supernatural experiences don’t happen on a time table. Until scientists learn to get over the traditional scientific method to study the existence or lack of the supernatural, they are irrelevant in the discussion. As such, if you’re interested in this article, read the article but avoid the comments. The interview was conducted with a ghost hunted who drew some interesting conclusions about hauntings that I think everyone can get behind (even skeptics who are not thick-headed).
Carly Ledbetter sat down with paranormal expert John E.L. Tenney, star of a new TV show called Ghost Stalkers on the channel Destination America and asked him about six of the most common occurrences during a haunting/”haunting”. Of the six, the only two that he confirmed in his career were “You’ve felt someone tap on your shoulder when no one is there” and “You suddenly smell the perfume of a loved one”. Neither of these sound particularly terrifying. I actively follow true ghost stories online and neither of these events are mentioned at all. These so-called true stories involve violent events after encountering an entity. They’re interesting and unnerving, which is why I keep coming back, but for the “real deal” on hauntings I trust Tenney’s judgment over strangers on the internet.
One point that Tenney makes that boggles my mind is when he says the report “People have died in the house” is false. He explains that most houses have had at least one death and the death of anyone doesn’t automatically mean there will be a haunting. I don’t want to disagree too vehemently but how come I, the least supernaturally sensitive person in the world, have seen my first-ever cat (a tortoiseshell named Susie) in two separate incidents within a month after her death? I don’t believe that it’s the house that is haunted, which I guess is what he dances around outright staying. If you’ve watched any modern supernatural horror movie that deals with a haunting, you’ve probably heard “Ghosts haunt people” or related statements. The idea is that no matter where a person moves, they won’t be able to shake the ghost because the ghost is connected to them. Keep in mind, my old tortie was a sweetheart, not an evil, angry ghost like you see in the movies. If she happened to check up on me once in a while, I don’t think it would be the worst thing that could happen. In that respect, I agree with Tenney that it’s not the house that’s haunted. However, I think that the death of a person (or an animal, such as my first-ever tortie) would encourage an appearance of their ghost at some point. Tenney would’ve made an even stronger point had he thoroughly explained what he means by a death in the house not automatically being a trigger for hauntings.
The thing I found most interesting about this article is how Tenney explains the hauntings he’s investigated in his experience. He said that up to 98% were attributed to “normal” causes but he still believes he could encounter a haunting. That unexplained 2% is enough to make it a possibility. I appreciate that he knows hauntings aren’t as widespread or violent as media makes them out to be, but he still keeps an open mind. Check out the list for yourself and see what you think!
Did you know that I wasn’t terrified of clowns until I realized so many people were? To make a long story short, they made such convincing points of why everyone should fear clowns that I began to fear them as well. I mean, who in their right mind would wear globs of ridiculously tacky make-up and a much-too-large painted-on smile? Well, besides 95% of the girls I knew in high school, that is. Anyway, since then I am happily anti-clown. Well, not exactly. Because I don’t like clowns, I automatically think of them as villains. As a literature girl I believe there should always be a good villain and why not make the villain a clown? Enter the novella Clown by Matt Shaw.
This man is a clown and he loves it. He loves making children laugh when he performs at their birthday parties and he even said he’s not in the profession strictly for the money. The conflict: Some kids are too mature for clowns, as revealed when a birthday he was hired for fell through for him. He was the type of person who was so even-tempered he didn’t even realize the cancellation-with-no-phone-call hurt him until at least five minutes (probably even longer, although no time frame was given) after finding out. The even larger conflict: This man probably has DID/Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) and his second personality is a serial killer. The novel is told from the perspective of the man and the perspective of his second personality interchangeably and it can get confusing to know who’s talking. Overall, the best way to know is that the man is a non-violent, good-hearted, but unfortunate character and his second personality is foul-mouthed and only interacts with people if it benefits him. In the end, the second personality gets so strong it overpowers the man and only one personality can “win”. I won’t spoil the ending because it’s interesting enough for everyone to read for themselves, but let’s just say that I was surprised.
I had a few small problems with this novella but I also liked it. Before I go into my reasons, I want to put it out there that Matt Shaw is a hit-or-miss author for me. Some of his novellas have a compelling villain but there’s no character that emerges as the hero or that you can root for. If you’re like me and like the traditional good vs. evil angle, Matt Shaw may not always deliver for you. This one is similar where in fact there aren’t many supporting characters outside of the man and his second personality, but you can cheer for the man because he’s likable. Furthermore, I appreciated that when this novella was advertised on the cover as psychological horror, it was exactly that. I’m just thinking that with an author like Matt Shaw, it’s not a case of “I love everything he’s ever written!” or “Oh my god, this guy thinks he’s a writer?” Clown was particularly interesting, but I felt like based on other novellas I read from him, it’s an outlier.
Now let’s get into the meat of this novella (no pun intended). There were qualities that deeply bothered me and I definitely need to share them with all of you before offering the redeeming aspects. You don’t have to answer this question if you don’t want to, but before reading Clown, ask yourself if you can read about poorly portrayed mental illness without being offended. It is the psychological angle that kept me reading but I also felt like there are unfortunate implications with the way DID was portrayed. I’m not an expert, but I know that there are different types of DID. The man had an extreme version where not only was his second personality a serial killer, but he was out-of-the-loop with actions “he” committed when the second personality came out. For example, the second personality revealed that after he killed children, he organized their corpses in the basement and painted a particularly graphic image of each one. The man didn’t even know what happened when the second personality took over even though the secondary personality “talked” to him about what he was doing. From what I’ve read about DID, it’s either that you know about all your personalities and they know about you or you make sudden changes and don’t remember anything from one personality to the next. It’s not like the way Matt Shaw portrayed it in the novella. In addition to this, I feel uncomfortable calling this an evil clown novella because it’s a little more complicated than that, but the synopsis doesn’t pay it justice. There is an evil clown, but it isn’t the man except when he’s controlled by the second personality. I also give a loud “Boo!” to Matt Shaw for making it sound like the second personality was a physical entity walking beside the man wherever he went. It didn’t add to the drama of the novella; in fact, it made the novella more confusing than it had to be.
My final thoughts about Matt Shaw’s Clown is that if you can get it “free” on your Kindle Unlimited, do that before you purchase it. I like it in spite of its (major) flaws, but I’m sure there are going to be people who are immediately turned off for some reason or other. It is worth a read according to me, but like any book that I’ve enjoyed in some sense, I advise you all to exercise your own judgment.
When we move away from the portrayal of DID, there are some seriously redeeming qualities of the novella. As I said in a previous paragraph, the man was a likable character. When readers were meant to feel sorry for him, they could because he was put in unpleasant situations and made honest attempts to put aside his “Poor me, poor me” sentiment. When the secondary personality overruled him, you could still separate that personality from the man. The villain of the novel that you were supposed to hate was always the second personality, not the man. Furthermore, I know this isn’t part of the plot or characters in the novella, but the writing style was readable and had a decent flow. I know it seems like a weird thing to compliment an author/novella on, but this was a self-published novella and, uh, there are things about self-published novellas. Mainly that they are assumed to be of poor writing quality. I could definitely think of changes that would make Clown better than it is, but there weren’t major spelling, grammar, or formatting errors.
Greg and Sheila Heyman have a monster of a son. No, really. Their son Gabe is a scientific experiment created by an underground organization. They don’t care that at six years old Gabe is more animalistic than human and requires live animals for food. He’s their son and they conveniently ignore all of his monstrous qualities. Their unusual but routine existance is shattered when Gabe matures into a teenage creature that needs to kill his own food. Will Greg and Sheila allow their son to make his kills as science intended, or will they finally put the kibosh on him?
Proud Parents is a difficult book to review because it’s exactly what I wanted to read when I purchased it and the writing is engaging from beginning to end but…I really didn’t like it. I want to tell you that my two main problems with the book are the characters of Greg and Sheila and the explanation of Gabe’s creation, which absolutely are problems. I’ll definitely explain why because those two qualities are the easiest to explain. There was another major problem I had as well but it’s harder for me to pinpoint it. The best way for me to explain it is that the synopsis of this novel was excellent and 100% accurate but the synopsis was considerably stronger than the novel itself.
Greg and Sheila Heyman were the worst characters I’ve read about in a month, and this includes characters from novels and short stories I’ve read for college. My college reading has the defense of being required reading while Proud Parents as “fun” reading does not. I completely understood that after Greg and Sheila couldn’t get pregnant through natural means they would fiercely protect their science experiment offspring like their own blood and that could mean doing unethical actions, but that they never questioned such things as killing people for Gabe to have fresh blood was just wrong. There was only one example where it possibly crossed Sheila’s mind that even to keep Gabe alive there had to be limits and that was in chapter 44 when Sheila internally ran over the problem of her husband immediately turning to “We have to lure people into the house so we can kill them and give them to Gabe.” Kristopher Rufty worded it better than this obviously, but that’s the gist of it. Furthermore, that is literally the only time that either of these people have any hesitation with their actions and in the end it doesn’t matter because Gabe is more important than morality.
The whole business of Gabe’s creation is far-fetched even for speculative fiction. If you read chapters five, six, and 45 you find out the whole story. Gabe was created as a part of Project: Newborn as an extremely underground experiment. There were six families plus the Heymans who participated in the experiment and four mothers died giving birth while only two were successful. Of the two that survived, only one family had a normal offspring. You see, these weren’t normal offspring. The scientists involved in Project: Newborn mixed human, primate, and reptile DNA thinking that the human DNA would take over. Furthermore, they expected that any hybrid offspring that was more creature than human would die in a short amount of time (not specified, although Dr. Henry Connors, one of the scientists involved in Gabe’s creation, was surprised that he had survived up to age six). Gabe was predominantly a lizard with his scaly green skin but he had the climbing skills of a primate and at a distance if people ignored his scales and claws and fangs he did resemble a young child. Slight problem: Gabe went through puberty midway through the novel and it was insanely disturbing to read about his bodily changes because he then functioned like a teenager but was still in a six-year-old’s body. In general I like the idea of a human/primate/reptile hybrid because authors are forced to use their imaginations since few already-published novels use those types of entity combinations, but I didn’t like how it was used in Proud Parents. To give credit to Mr. Rufty, once Gabe was created and going through mutations, that made some sense to me. Just like humans go through changes, I would assume primates and reptiles do as well. Still, I always come return to the idea that if these hybrid offspring weren’t supposed to live up to six years of age while Gabe was not only surviving but becoming immortal (or at least able to regenerate after major injuries), then what was so different about Gabe allowing him to do so?
Here’s the thing: This book had a delightful synopsis that actually summarized the story accurately. I appreciate that because I have read other books about non-human offspring where the synopsis said one thing and the book told a completely different story. I want to give credit where credit is due, so thank you Kristopher Rufty and Samhain Publishing for being honest with your synopsis and novel. I just felt like the synopsis told a stronger story than the actual novel. While the novel had filler descriptions of neighbors that became involved with the Heymans (usually as food), the synopsis cut out that blabber and focused specifically on the problem of Gabe being a monster. I would recommend that if you’re curious about reading Proud Parents, just read the chapters about the Heymans, Gabe, and Dr. Henry Connors.
In the end I refuse to make a “Read this!” or “Never touch this with a million foot pole!” judgment because there are good and bad points about this book. If you like reading books about offspring that aren’t entirely normal, maybe you’ll find the science/”science” compelling enough to give this one a try. I do love the “evil kid” genre of entertainment media and I feel safe in saying that that is why I purchased this book. It’s true that I thought there wasn’t solid justification for how Gabe was created and managed to survive and become stronger but I feel like another reader may not have problems with this. The only thing I’d definitely recommend is reading the reviews of this book on Amazon or Good Reads (if the book exists on there) before purchasing it.
Have you ever considered an anonymous secret-sharing application as horror reading? I know I wouldn’t have thought so but the app Whisper is scarier than any horror material I’ve read to date. To put it politely, I’m surprised 90% of the confessors aren’t in prison. Before leaving Whisper behind, I posted a few of my own confessions. It’s one thing to hear Tumblr and BuzzFeed users say that only “serial killers” use Whisper and quite another to experience it firsthand. Don’t get me wrong, my secrets were legitimate. I wouldn’t necessarily want to share them under my real name on an app that people used for hook-ups and worse but they were definitely real secrets. For the purpose of writing my review I’ll share a few not-so-personal secrets that I remember writing.
I love bloody, gory horror movies. I am a woman.
I had no intention of this being a turn-on. On the day I wrote this, I found a series of quotes about how teenage boys get their girlfriends to sleep with them by showing them a scary movie and freaking them out so bad they turn to their boyfriend for comfort. Screw that! I’m a huge fan of bloody, gory horror movies because they’re disgusting and stomach-turning. Of course, I don’t want gore just for the sake of gore. I will absolutely give low ratings to movies that are completely meant for shock value and nothing more. *Cough Human Centipede Two cough* However, I don’t shy away from it when it adds to the storyline. I do have squicks, but I’m a big girl. If I can’t handle it then I look away or put down my computer lid if I’m watching the movie that way. I sure don’t need to turn to someone else.
Within five minutes after posting this secret, I get at least three private messages from these teenage boys asking me where I live and when they should come pick me up? Really? Ugh!
I like to kiss my cats on the lips.
Surprisingly I got no weird comments for this one. All the comments followed the sentiment of “I love cats!” and “Same!” It’s weird that people are weird about every other topic except animals, and then they’re just a flurry of “Oh my god, so cute!”
I like reading about mass muderers, morbid as that sounds.
I was totally asking for the creepy comments with this one, but there’s also a story behind why I posted this secret. So I’d bought a few books on my Kindle that related to teenage mass murderers. What an interesting subject! I’m a Criminology student as well as an English student. If the college and the department were better funded and had more options for specialized classes based on interests, I would absolutely want to focus on juvenile delinquency! This is one aspect of it. I don’t know what sparked my interest in “evil” kids but it’s like the one type of non-fiction reading I love. Okay, here’s the problem: People think that if you read about it, that obviously means you want to be like the people you’re reading about. This is 100% false, but of course you can’t reason with them. People get weird about subjects such as mass murderers. I posted this secret because it’s an unpopular opinion and requires loads of justification.
Not all the comments were creepy. Some comments served as reference material for future reading. If you give me the name of someone I’ve never heard of, I totally want to know who they are and what they did. Some comments were in agreement. It turns out that otherwise normal, well-adjusted people are just as interested in the subject as I am.
Then you get the really weird comments. I got offers to meet people who were apparently planning their own mass murders. Some people thought it was perfectly normal to tell me “I’ve been dying to commit this particular crime! Read about me!” Ummmmm, no thanks. Oh, never mind the people who, once again, wanted to hook up with me. Ugh!
I do believe in a parallel universe and parallel Jessica. I bet she’s living in a ritzy apartment with a prestigious career and living a dream life.
This was actually my reply to someone who was questioning the existence of parallel universes and parallel selves. I didn’t officially give them my name because, as above, creepy people, but I did share this thought. This person sent me a very involved private message. It was actually quite philosophical, but a little weird to ask someone you never actually met. Essentially this person said I was the only respondent that sounded disconnected from myself by referring to my parallel self as “she” instead of “me”. To me, it really is “she”. Even if Parallel Jessica is technically me, she isn’t me. She’s nothing more than an alternative that never will be. Why should I identify with her? Of course, I’m not going to explain this to someone I don’t know. It is something I might blog about in a completely different blog but definitely not something I’d share on Whisper.
To be fair, I walked into that one by typing that spacy-sounding response.
I don’t know how to officially rate the Whisper app. It’s effectively creepy reading material because it’s real. You know how when you read a solid horror novel and it’s unsettling for maybe a few days? Whisper gave me that feeling every time I checked in. I used it for a good month until I learned it was draining my cell phone battery and using my monthly data allowance. That was literally the only reason I stopped reading it. On the other hand, Whisper is creepy because people who only know you by your secrets want to date you. If they knew me in real life, I don’t think they’d actually notice me. It’s not real, if that makes sense. And let’s not forget that if you confess about your interest in horror and murderers, you can get personal messages about people who aspire to be murderers by luring in other horror fans as victims.