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Monday, 14 May 2018

Book Review: Danse Macabre by Stephen King

A non-fiction book that focuses on horror fiction throughout movies, film, television and radio, and what is it about the genre that captivates so many horror enthusiasts.


"We fall from womb to tomb, from one blackness and toward another, remembering little of the one and knowing nothing of the other."

The Master of Horror discussing the genre of horror?? Sign me up! This was admittedly better than I expected - I expected a stuffy essay that would be a chore to read at times. Luckily, this wasn't really the case at all. I'm a huge fan of when King talks directly to his Constant Reader, whether it be in his introductions or his afterwords, or even in On Writing. He has such a knack of pulling you in and making it feel like it's just you and him, chilling, sharing a coffee while he divulges all his thoughts and opinions. Just me and King sharing a caramel square.

The huge downside of Danse Macabre is that it is outdated - this was released in 1981, of course. There's been a plethora of horror movies and books since then! In the edition I read there were two updated forewords where King talks about some of the more recent horror movies. He has a HUGE love for The Blair Witch which I really enjoyed reading about. I would love if he decided to release an updated version where he covers all the important horror books or movies in the last 30 years or so, because he clearly still has an avid passion for both, as evident on his twitter.

Be prewarned - King is spoilerific in here. He is dropping spoilers like there's no tomorrow. But don't worry, if you've a firm background knowledge in horror then you should be fine. However, there were some instances in which I had to skip entire chunks because he was discussing a few books that are still on my TBR, books like Ghost Story by Peter Straub, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury etc. But I have made a note of the books he covered that I haven't read yet so that I can come back to those relevant sections in Danse Macabre when I do get around to them! I loved his deep analysis of books like The Haunting of Hill House and why it worked. I loved how he had quotes and excerpts from a lot of these authors discussing their relevant works and the horror genre itself.

One of the most boring parts of the book, for me anyway, is when he talks about radio and television. Over the years I have caught up on, and intend to catch up on, a lot of horror books and movies from the past, however I have pretty much zero knowledge regarding horror on the radio or television from back in the day. But these were only covered in about two chapters or so, so it's not too boring for long.

Dispersed throughout are a lot of King's own experiences with horror and little anecdotes about his life, which I really enjoyed. He talks about how Lovecraft was the one who first got him into serious fantasy-horror fiction (I approve), and he has a fun little story about a young Joe Hill that had me laughing out loud. He also made a lot of Lord of the Rings references which I particularly enjoyed...

So, yes! Overall this was a pretty good read. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to someone unless they really were a fan of the horror genre. Fingers crossed that King provides an updated version at some point!! 3 and a half 5 stars for this one!

Johann
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