I read Wieland, or The Transformation, An American Tale, on 25 September.
peripherally a Charlie Parker story, this is more about Louis and Angel; mostly about Louis and his past and what happens when that catches up with them both.
A wealthy recluse sends Louis and Angel on a mission to a town where things aren't as they seem and where they find themselves in serious danger. Charlie Parker has to come to their rescue but things are quite perilous and survival won't be easy. This will make and break relationships.
Not so much of the supernatural but a lot of assassins and killers being brutal to each other. I liked Willie, the mechanic and his story drew me in (as I'm sure the author intended).
There was a great piece: "When the three men had gone, Brooker sat silently at his kitchen table while his wife rolled dough behind him, and tried to ignore the waves of disapproval that were breaking upon his back." (p. 336 in my edition) I liked the imagery.
There were some very gory parts to this... not for the squeamish, the relish some of the characters had for killing was chilling.
Falls into Murder most foul, probably serial/spree killer (several of those in the story); In the Dark, Dark woods. I intended it for American Horror Story, it's more the horrible things people can do to each other but I'm going to count it.
From what I understand, this is the last of the Mail Order Massacres novella series. That's a damn shame! The first dealt with sea monkeys, the second with X-Ray glasses, and this one- a nuclear submarine ordered from the back of a comic book. You shouldn't worry though because if you're not happy with your submarine, there's a money back guarantee!
So what happens when Rosemary orders said nuclear sub and her son tries to take it into his best friend's pool? As you can imagine, it doesn't go very well because the sub is actually made out of cardboard. Rosemary tries to get her money back and that's when everything goes south. Is her son okay? Will she be refunded her $5.00? You'll have to read this ripping novella to find out!
Money Back Guarantee was a fast paced story that can easily be knocked off in one sitting. Was it fun? Hell, yeah! Was it engaging? Oh yes! Was it totally believable? Probably not, but if you're looking at these kinds of books, believability is probably not your first priority. If what you ARE looking for is fun, then this is the novella for you!
I'm going with highly recommended on this one, because it's just so entertaining!
You can pre-order your copy here: Money Back Guarantee
*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
I've said this before, but it's worth mentioning again - my husband is a 70's-80's horror junkie. Halloween bingo has been great fun for me the past two years because it gives me a good reason to dive in and read some of his favorites that have been sitting on our shelves staring at me for years. Some of them literally staring at me. Horror covers, right? When my youngest was a toddler, he used to pull this book called "The Dark" off the shelf all the time. No other book. Just that one. There is NOTHING more freaky than finding this book in random places around the house. The worst part was that we'd never see him actually do it - and there was no limit to what he'd hide and where we'd find it but never any other book. Here's the book he liked to surprise us with - imagine finding this under your couch blankie when you're finally trying to relax for the evening.
Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes! The Sentinel. Did you know this book was made into a movie? When I finished the book last night, my husband asked me if I wanted to try to watch the film again. I said, "again?", as in, I had seen it before? As in, a second viewing? I was fairly sure I'd never seen this movie before (and until that moment didn't even know it was a movie). He informed me that way back in our beginning days it was one of the first movies he tried to share with me. Apparently after agreeing and sitting and watching a bit, I incredulously uttered, "Oh my God, what are we watching?". I'm sure I was perfectly polite about it and didn't flail and scream like he seems to remember, but as I have no memory of this event you'll have to decide for yourself how that all went down.
My overall thoughts of the story are this - it was a disturbing slow burner with a right frightening ending.
From the top:
Beautiful model, Allison Parker, decides she needs to live on her own before committing to the happily ever after with her lawyer boyfriend, Michael Farmer. Though she loves him, she hasn't really had any space since her attempted suicide of two years prior. She finds a perfect old brownstone, fully furnished, and right her in her price range. The only downside is the creepy blind priest that lives on the top floor who spends day in and day out staring out the window.
I'm going to spoil this now, so read no further if you think you'd like the joy of discovery here. This quaint old brownstone is actually the entrance to hell.
Once she moves in, Allison gets to party with her neighbors (well, they're actually denizens of hell and disturbing as all get out, but they do offer her coffee and cake and who can say no to that type of hospitality?) and for her friendliness she gets migraines, fainting spells, and some very wacky hallucinations. After 'stabbing' her dead father during one such episode, she moves back in with her lawyer boyfriend who tries two different tactics to healing Allison. Firstly, beating her about the face, and secondly, actually investigating the building and its tenants.
He finds that Allison is actually the next Sentinel, God's chosen one who will guard the gate of hell to keep the evil dead from invading the Earth. She's to replace the creepy fifth floor priest who will never answer his damn door, who doesn't party with the neighbors and literally never leaves that window. Michael sleuths this out by breaking into the Archdioceses and looking through their files for clues about the priest and then by tearing the brownstone apart (literally tearing paneling off the walls to reveal the words of Dante inscribed there. If you haven't already rolled your eyes about how NYC holds the gateway to hell, or the fact that there's paper files lying around in the Archdioceses office that basically explains all this mega-level supernatural crud, the Dante thing is a good time to start).
The thing I notice about most of these 70's and early 80's horrors that I've read is that I hate everyone. I never really wanted the devil to win here, but there was a point where I just needed Allison to go ahead and assume crucifix clutching, glassy-eyed stare already so I could be done with the axe murderess and other psychos. It's saying something when the girlfriend beater is the second best character in the book- luckily, any guilt there is assuaged when he's bludgeoned to death and joins the legion.
I read this pretty quickly and had a moment of genuine fright (and a some disgust), so I think it did its job.
This has been on my Kindle for ages and ages, and on my priority list almost as long.
Wieland, or the Transformation: An American Tale was published in 1798, one of the first "significant" novels published by an American. I'm not sure what that "significant" means, though it's certainly noteworthy that Wieland was both popular and influential.
One of the attractions for me, however, is that it's written from the point of view of Clara Wieland, the sister of Theodore for whom the novel is ostensibly titled.
The story is more or less straightforward -- Theodore and Clara's father had been something of a religious fanatic, who died apparently of divinely-ordained spontaneous combustion in a "temple" he had built on his property in rural Pennsylvania. Years later, in the grip of similar fanaticism, Theodore murders his wife and their four children as well as a young female companion. An itinerant "biloquist" -- ventriloquist -- named Carwin confesses to having provided various mysterious voices but denies using his talent to induce Wieland murder his family. Theodore eventually realizes what he's done and takes his own life. The end, sort of.
The style is awkward, and I can't say this was a fun read. The novel purports to be a letter Clara is writing to an unnamed friend -- and I thought I wrote long letters?? -- so it's all tell and no show in a decidedly 18th century manner. But Clara as a character and narrator often has more in common with a kick-ass heroine of the 21st century than with her gothic descendants of the mid-20th century. Wealth inherited from her father permits her to live independently, and she even makes plans to reveal her affections to their object rather than wait for him to do so first.
Unfortunately, before she has a chance to do that, there's a classic "big misunderstanding" and everything goes to hell. Sound familiar? Yeah, the more things change and all that.
The ventriloquism device didn't work for me. Regardless how clever the ventriloquist, there is still the matter of distance across which a voice can be "thrown." Had Carwin's talent been more smoothly woven with the belief/disbelief that Wieland or Clara or her love interest Pleyel had actually heard divine voices, it might have worked better.
But that's a criticism coming from two and a quarter centuries of popular fiction later.
The novel's focal point, if you will, is the mass murder of Wieland's family. This event was based on an actual case that occurred in 1781 in New York, in which the father slaughtered his wife and children and claimed God had told him to do it. What struck me about Wieland, however, was that the murders don't occur until almost two-thirds of the way through the novel -- 62% on my Kindle. By this point, Carwin has played his games, Pleyel has learned of and revealed Carwin's sordid history, and Clara's romantic future has been destroyed by the Big Miz. Her brother's religiosity is a very minor issue; he's been portrayed as devout, yes, but also studious and a good father and husband. Unlike his own father, Theodore Wieland hasn't (yet) become a nut job, to use 2017 terminology.
Up to then, this has been Clara's story, told by Clara -- as told by Charles Brockden Brown, of course. Then the men screw it all up.
Wieland kills his family then testifies in court that yes, of course, he did it because God commanded him to do it. How could it be wrong if it was God's will? So the court decides he's the equivalent of insane -- unable to distinguish right from wrong, essentially -- and condemn him to life in prison.
Interestingly -- remember, this was published in 1798 -- Clara's maternal uncle is a physician who argues that Wieland's hallucinations are an indication of mental illness, while Clara argues that they weren't hallucinations at all but rather the product of the evil Carwin's machinations.
It all winds down with Carwin's doleful confession to Clara, tempered by his insistence that he wasn't the one to tell Wieland to kill anyone, and then Wieland himself escapes his prison, threatens Clara, suddenly sees the error of his ways (regains his sanity???), and kills himself.
There follows a kind of postscript, in which Clara recounts her life after her brother's death, and while she achieves a certain happiness or maybe at least contentment, almost everyone else has a kind of "life's a bitch and then you die" ending. Still, the whole thing seemed rather remarkable to be told from the woman's point of view until
the very last paragraph. 'Cause yep, it's always the victim's fault.
I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-tongued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.
Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale (Kindle Locations 3308-3314). Kindle Edition.
(emphasis mine, above)
Wieland is one of those books I'm glad I read because of its importance to the literary history of fiction by, for, and about women. But I can't say I enjoyed it. Only recommended to those who are truly dedicated. (It's not scary or creepy or gory or anything else.)