My book shelf is dominated by three names: King, Pratchett and Marvel.
I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since I was a teenager. He was, and still is, my idol. The sheer volume of work he has produced is ridiculous; he’s a writing machine! The modern master of horror has written over 50 novels and nearly 200 short stories. If I get one novel published in my lifetime I’ll be happy.
With that much to choose from, narrowing down a favourite is extremely difficult. The Shining is a contemporary classic and its sequel, Doctor Sleep, was much anticipated and well received. The Stand, Pet Sematary, and Misery are often talked up as some of his greatest extended pieces but they’re still not my favourite. I was tempted to pick Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas – three of which have been turned into films. Ultimately, I couldn’t go past
The Dark Half
The Dark Half is an important King novel because of what it is a reaction to. When Stephen King felt people were buying his novels simply because they had his name on them he started writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman to see if the quality of his writing was still strong enough to sell books. The Dark Half is a response to this period of his career.
In the novel, the protagonist is an author whose pseudonym sells better than he does. When it is revealed that the author (Thad Beaumont) and the moniker (George Stark) are one in the same Thad and his wife hold a mock funeral for the now redundant pen name. In true King style, the fake grave gives birth to a real threat as George rises from the dead and starts killing all of those responsible for his ‘death’.
Beyond the gruesome killings the book features brain tumours and parasitic twins but the scariest element for me is wrapped up in one phrase:
“The sparrows are flying again.”
I hate birds. Talons. Beaks. The ability to swoop. Birds are freaky. And, if the book didn’t scar me enough, George A. Romero’s film version echoed Hitchcock’s classic and I haven’t looked at birds the same way since.
As for Pratchett, I read Truckers when I was in high school. I thought it was awesome but I was deep into horror at the time and wasn’t interested in genre hopping. Thus, it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I really fell in love with Discworld. The best thing about this universe is the variation. Fans are divided as to which series within this space is Pratchett’s best. Is it the chronicles of Rincewind and the wizards, Granny Weatherwax and the witches (that now includes the YA Tiffany Aching books), Grimes and the City Watch, Death or the more recent adventures of conman Moist Von Lipwig?
Again, like King, Terry Pratchett is a prolific writer – there are 40 novels in the Discworld series alone. It makes it hard to pin down an absolute favourite. As an Australian, it’s hard to go past The Last Continent, a parody of Aussie culture. I love the development of Pratchett’s characters and Thud sheds new light on Vimes but I don’t know The Da Vinci Code well enough to get all of the jokes.
Ultimately, I’d have to say my favourite Pratchett book is
Carpe Jugulum has possibly the best title of any book ever. This vampire tale belongs to the witches series of books and features Granny Weatherwax and co. standing up against a family of vampires who have built up a tolerance for garlic, bright light, and religious symbols.
This book also marks the first appearance of an Igor, a clan of servants who have gone on to appear in nine other Discworld novels.
As a horror fan and high school teacher, I probably gravitate towards this book because it parodies gothic literature, the Hammer horror films and youth culture. It practically screams out “READ ME!”
The final dominant presence on my bookshelves is Marvel Comics. Being a fan of graphic novels and comics used to be a little embarrassing but the success of the Marvel movie universe has made it a more acceptable social practice. Extreme fanboy behaviour is still discouraged but it’s okay to admit to an interest in superheroes.
My own interests here tend to gravitate towards new perspectives on mainstream characters. Villain centered collections like Identity Disc and Villains for Hire offer new insights on characters that often go underdeveloped and the Ultimate Marvel universe updated existing characters for a new generation. But, I was always a fan of the What If? comics that would explore alternate versions of existing characters so my favourite trade paperback would have to be
Exiles (volume 1) saw the creation of a new superhero team led by Blink from the Age of Apocalypse storyline. We are told that they are brought together by the Timebroker to fix broken realities within the Marvel multiverse. The premise is Quantum Leap meets the X-Men and Avengers.
One of the coolest things about this series (and the first book) is that you get to see alternate Marvel universes where history has been altered because of a single change at a key point in time. There are gender swapped characters and new characters who are the offspring of well know superheroes and villains. Beyond that, the make up of the team can change at any point as heroes get replaced upon their death or the completion of a specific mission.
Anyway, I don’t know why I’ve written this blog post (or any of the others really) but I hope you find something here that tickles your fancy. If not, use the comments to tell me who dominates your bookshelves and what your favourite books are.