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.*
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.)
I remember reading this collection when I was a teenager. So happy to re-read again and refresh my memory. We get classic King here. I read this for the "American Horror Story" square due to all of these stories taking place in America. One started in space, but ended in Florida, so that one still counts too.
"Jerusalem's Lot" (5 stars)-taking place in the late 1800s in Maine. We get to read about the ancestors who came to stay at what will become a house of horror and terror for those in King's book, Salem's Lot. The tension in this story told via letters and excerpts grows until the ending which leads us to the events of the present day at Salem's Lot.
"Graveyard Shift" (4 stars)-this one had a lot of do with rats. So enjoy twitching while you read. A college educated man working at a factory gets fixated on the mean foreman. I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown. And I honestly didn't cheer for the main protagonist since I thought he was insane.
"Night Surf" (3 stars)-the only saving grace is that this can be considered a side story in "The Stand". We read about a group of teens who come together after Captain Trips hits America and everyone starts dying. I just didn't care for any of the characters.
"I am The Doorway" (5 stars)-just realized this story would fit the "Aliens" square. I thought it was very well don't and full or horror when you realize what is happening to a retired astronaut.
"The Mangler" (5 stars)-a haunted machine that gets a taste for blood. I remember watching this movie as a kid and I liked the crazy ending that got tacked on. The original story is just as good too.
"The Boogeyman" (5 stars)-this book still scared me via my re-read and is directly the reason for my inability to sleep with the closet door open. So kudos to King for that. I do wonder if the awful man who treats his wife with contempt and his children with benign neglect is the reason why the so called Boogeyman was focused on this man and his family.
"Gray Matter" (4 stars)-a man and his beer will not be parted. The ending leaves things up in the air so you don't know whether there will be a happy ending or not.
"Battleground" (3 stars)-weirdest story in this collection. I was fascinated by a tale of Army men come to life, but it ultimately didn't work for me.
"Trucks" (4 stars)-I consider this King's earlier version of "The Happening" with trucks. I still found it to be a bit hard to swallow though. How does a truck know Morse code?
"Sometimes They Come Back" (5 stars)-really great story of a man haunted by the death of his brother. I recall watching the original movie and sequels to this and enjoyed them.
"Strawberry Spring" (5 stars)- a man explains how during his college days, when a Strawberry Spring came, so did a serial killer. I thought when I read this for the first time how smart and surprising the ending for the story was that King wrote. Though I knew the ending, I still enjoyed this.
"The Ledge" (5 stars)-a man forced to bargain for his lover and his life by being forced to walk a ledge from several stories up. I have a far of heights so this story always freaks me out.
"The Lawnmower Man" (2 stars)-my least favorite in this collection. It was just weird, not scary.
"Quitters Inc." (4 stars)-what would you be willing to give up in order to quit smoking? The whole premise of this book seems far-fetched though I liked it.
"I Know What You Need" (5 stars)-the fact that King in the 70s gets that your inability to give consent is rape floors me since many people still argue about this. What would you do if you found someone could give you everything that you never knew you wanted?
"Children of the Corn" (5 stars)-the whole thing could have been avoided if the husband listened to his wife. Heck, I would have left him in this small town where no adults seem to exist. The description of this town and the smell of corn felt very real to me yesterday when I was reading.
"The Last Rung on the Ladder" (5 stars)-such a sad tale of what happens when an older brother is not there for his younger sister as they grow into adulthood.
"The Man Who Loved Flowers" (3 stars)-not that engrossing as "Strawberry Spring."
"One for the Road" (5 stars)- Salem's Lot, I think two years after the events in that book.
"The Woman in the Room" (3 stars)-i thought this was a weak story to end the book on. Would have been better to end the book with a Lot story since one opened up the collection.