June’s recommendations are in! This month the Hex Dimension team have been asked to talk about their favourite supernatural novels. One author in particular has proven to be a particular favourite…
It took me a while to think of something to write about for this one, because I haven’t really read that many supernatural books. Out of the incredibly short shortlist I had in my head, I eventually settled on Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This was simply because American Gods seems just a bit too fantastical to be counted as supernatural, but Neverwhere gets that balance of real world and magical just right.
The books follows the trials and tribulations of young office worker Richard Mayhew, who accidentally finds himself stuck in the world of London Below, a sprawling subterranean city filled with monsters and killers and angels. Teaming together with the sneaky Marquis de Carabas, the magical Door and the deadly Hunter, Richard sets out trying to find his way back to where he belongs, the “real” world.
This motley crew are all brilliant characters who stick with you long after the book is finished. But it is London Below that is the real star of this novel, brilliantly thought-out and wonderfully described by Gaiman. It is both hauntingly beautiful and also just plain haunting, and Gaiman’s love for the real city of London shines through in the writing. But this book is so much more than a supernatural love letter to a city. It is a testament to the imagination and to the hidden yet beautiful parts of life that we so easily overlook.
The first time I read Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire – I was captivated by the world she had created.
The characters of Lestat, Lois and friends leapt from the page. Their adventures and quarrels staying with me evermore. It’s a truly great vampire novel, instead of having your bog standard monster vampires that are simply out for blood, the vampires in this book still had human feelings. Their emotions were still intact.
Yes they had immortality and needed blood to live – yet they tackled that in their own ways. Some were happy to hunt, whilst others would rather feast on the blood of rats. It’s an amazing story, one that every body should read at least once. Then you need to read the rest of the Vampire Chronicles….
Before the iconic Stanley Kubrick film, there was the novel. The Shining by Stephen King is one of the author’s earliest works and follows the Torrance family as they take up residence at the Overlook Hotel to oversee its care during the harsh, out-of-season weather. A tale of psychic awakenings and madness, it’s not a light read by any standard.
I suppose The Shining was the tipping point in terms of King’s style, where he really began to get into describing anything and everything the characters were in, doing and thinking. At the same time, this reach towards realism in the novel always makes the supernatural elements that more breathtaking and frightening – the way normality begins to show some very jagged cracks, but believable, when little Danny begins to see things. This is the kind of supernatural novel that allows you to suspend your disbelief, which is obviously a very good thing.
This is the first Stephen King novel I read and this supernatural-horror novel forever holds an association with summer for me. It’s just the kind of long novel you could do with during a holiday. This is in spite of its less than summer-esque settings of winter and me having never read it during the summer, though now that I think about it – perhaps it’s time to return to the Overlook Hotel…
It took me a while to come up with a book this week. Supernatural fiction just isn’t something I have any interest in. The only one I could even remember reading was The Lovely Bones, and I pretty much hated it. I thought I may have to sit this one out – but then I remembered Neil Gaiman.
Gaiman’s stories are… different. While definitely supernatural, they construct such vivid, alien worlds that they often brush shoulders with fantasy, a genre I’m much more at home with. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is no exception, using West African myths to create a tale of animal spirits, mysterious powers, demonic possession, and mother-in-law jokes.
While all his books are sharp and witty, this is the only Gaiman solo-act that I’d call a comedy. Fat Charlie (who isn’t fat) finds his life in meltdown when, following the death of his dad, a mysterious stranger turns up claiming to be his brother. Not a long-lost brother or anything, just a twin brother that Fat Charlie forgot he had. Oh, and their father was a god. And a kind of demented supernatural buddy-comedy spirals out from there.
Which isn’t to say it’s not dark. It can get downright scary – especially whenever there’s birds involved. But if supernatural drama or horror isn’t your thing, and you’d prefer some levity with your unholy powers, you should definitely try Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. Otherwise, if you do want drama and horror, try anything else he’s ever written!