‘Tis the season….

Deck the halls, etc.

Megatron: “Get those glittering spheres onto the tree!”
Vehicons: Finally! A mission that we Vehicons will probably all manage to survive.

We’re likely to be offline for a few days over the festive period, so we wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for all your support for Addaltmode in the past year, our blog has just reached its first birthday and it’s been a blast! Here’s to the next 12 months…

Book Review: Drood by Dan Simmons

Part of AddAltMode's Creepy Countdown series

Part of AddAltMode’s Creepy Countdown series

When I’m not reading about robots, I do love a good horror story, so as part of our Creepy Countdown series, I’m going to recommend and discuss a few of my favourite creepy reads in the run up to Hallowe’en.

Title: Drood
Author: Dan Simmons
Published: 2009 by Quercus

Now, horror literature is a genre that I think often works best in concentrated doses, ideally suited to short stories or – at a push – novellas, as it can be hard convincingly to sustain terror and suspense for the course of a long novel. Which isn’t to say that long reads can’t be scary, but it’s a different kind of scare: more about creating an atmosphere of mystery and doubt than conjuring jump scares and physical threat. It’s probably significant that most of my favourite 500-pages plus horror reads sit squarely in the genre of Victorian-inspired historical fiction. Why is that? Well, Those triple-decker-penning Victorian writers like Charles Dickens and Wilkie Coillins certainly knew a thing or two about how to pace a marathon read, and even works by modern writers that are set in the nineteenth-century can often get away with being very expansive, as the length feels authentic for this setting rather than just an authorial indulgence. Also, let’s face it, when it comes to creating an atmosphere of spookiness there is something unbeatable about a nineteenth-century milieu, especially an urban one. Perhaps it’s the obscuring smog for which Victorian cities were notorious; perhaps its the darker shadows cast by gaslight, or perhaps it’s the idea of London during this period as a city expanding and mechanising at a prodigious rate, all of which make it a perfect setting for mysteries and secrets.

In Drood, Dan Simmons draws on all of these ideas, as well as re-imagining the lives of two of the era’s foremost writers of spookily atmospheric fiction, the aforementioned Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Dickens’ ghost characters (particularly those from A Christmas Carol) have to be among the most famous of all pop-cultural spooks, while Collins’ The Woman in White and Armadale are classic spooky thrillers that would both feature on my list of all time favourite reads. So it’s a wonderful – if slightly crazed – conceit to follow these two men as they become embroiled in a mystery of their own. Simmons speculates (wildly but enjoyably) on the inspiration behind Dickens’ unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood in a plot which sees the two great authors battling demons of their own – both metaphorical and slightly less so. If that sounds silly, that’s because it is. Let’s be clear, Drood is a completely ridiculous and overwrought piece of faux-Victorian Gothic hokum. But it’s also unputdownably gripping, brilliantly plotted and tempers its crazed flights of dark fantasy with some impressively heavyweight literary and historical research. In short, although I freely admit this novel is mad, bad and dangerous to know, I adored it – and sustainedly adored it throughout all its mighty 800 pages. So this is one of my top picks for a Hallowe’en read. But Drood is a weighty tome indeed so if want to get it ticked off your reading list before the end of the month it’s probably best to start now. Here’s more on why you should…

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Hello October: creepy content incoming!

October has to be one of the best months of the year, not only does it bring us many of the most strikingly beautiful sunrises and sunsets, it also usually provides plenty to see and do for fun-loving geeks. The local convention circuit is in full swing and it’s also the time of year when many bands have recovered sufficiently from the summer festival run to head out on a proper tour, so October usually brings a few gigs to look forward to as well. This year is no exception; B and I are hugely looking forward to seeing the legendary Alice Cooper live later this month! And then of course there is Hallowe’en, also known as the annual non-convention-related excuse for putting on a silly costume, as if an excuse was needed!

Photo by Dennis Taufenbach

Photo courtesy of Dennis Taufenbach

Speaking of excuses, the imminent approach of the spookiest day of the year seems like as good a reason as any to do what I’m sure many in the WordPress community will be doing this month, that is, sharing some posts of a more scary/horror themed nature. To get in the mood for Hallowe’en we’ll be discussing some of our favourite spooky music and literature as well as tackling the burning questions of the day such as:

  • batWhich Magic the Gathering cards have the scariest art?
  • Which Transformers cartoon episodes are the spookiest?
  • Which rat-inspired Hallowe’en decorations/props are most offensively un-ratlike?

 

Our Creepy Countdown posts will be interspersed among some of the more regularly themed content we’ve got planned for AddAltMode during the coming month, so watch out for the bat image, then you know things are getting spooky.  Join us… if you dare!