Pet Sematary by Stephen King

This chilling horror novel, set in the small town of Ludlow, Maine, captured my attention from the first sentence and kept it until the very end. It tells the story of Dr. Louis Creed and his family when they move from Boston to Maine. Louis, Louis’ wife Rachel, the Creed children, Ellie and Gage, and Ellie’s cat Church, settle into this new environment with mixed feelings.

From the first day they’re there, they experience strange occurrences and frightening events; on Louis’ first week at his new job as director of campus health services at the University of Maine, a student named Victor Pascow is brought in, severely injured. He says his last words to Louis specifically, warning him about the “pet sematary” that the story revolves around. 

Louis’ awareness of the pet cemetery prompts chilling dreams of Victor Pascow and the cemetery. This, combined with Rachel’s severe anxiety about death due to the traumatizing death of her sister as well as the family’s overall discomfort with moving, makes the family dynamic strained, quick to argue. 

The Creed’s neighbor, Jud Crandall, explains, after much prodding, the pet cemetery is known throughout the town to raise pets from the dead. In fact, when Church is hit by a truck speeding on the highway near their home, Jud takes Louis to the cemetery, showing him how to bring the cat back. However, the cat comes back different than he was before; he acts differently, and even his fur is coarser to the touch. 

Months later, when Gage suffers the same fate as Church did, the pet cemetery comes up as an option for Louis to get his son back, despite the horrifying consequences that his actions would bring. Louis comes back again and again to the thought of the cemetery, and he eventually makes a decision that destroys his life forever. 

Stephen King is a master at creating an aura of unease with his storytelling. The “pet sematary’s” involvement in the story builds with every chapter, making the book impossible to put down but also frightening to the core. The depiction of real human relationships and interactions between Louis, Jud, and the other characters are interwoven beautifully with the underlying horror, making it seem like this story could happen to anyone of us, wherever we are. 

Understandably, this book might not be for everyone; it has a tendency to spark nightmares and frightening thoughts for those unaccustomed to thriller novels, and even for those who are. Due to the amount of gore and unforgiving description of the worst parts of life, this book is likely not suitable for younger readers. However, for fans of horror like me, or those readers who are just in the mood to be scared, this novel is, in my opinion, one of the best written novels in the horror genre. 

-Adelle W.

Pet Semetary by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

Aside from the horror classics of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “The Call of Cthulhu” among one of Lovecraft’s most famous and known stories is “The Dunwich Horror”. The story is often criticized by scholars for being somewhat “formulaic” and for being the exception in Lovecraft’s ideas of an indifferent cosmos and humans being infinitely insignificant in the eyes of the universe.

Rather, the story is a classic battle between good and evil and is one of the few stories in which a hero is seen defeating the villain, although the triumph is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Without spoiling too much, since I heavily encourage people, especially horror fans, to read the story, the tale is of the terror that is Wilbur Whateley and his family.

Born to the deformed albino Lavinia Whateley, they lived in Dunwich. Mainly isolating themselves from the rest of the world, Wilbur was obviously something else. Reaching maturity by the age of ten and being an eight foot, misshapen being who caused dogs around him to go into frenzies, Wilbur was being groomed by his grandfather, Old Whateley, in what many townsfolk presumed to be dark magic.

Progressively, their house increases in size as Old Whateley and Wilbur add more floors and enlarge it, to accommodate for… something. They shy away from people but routinely go to the top of Sentinel Hill to chant in odd hours before hiding away. It all goes downhill when Old Whateley dies, and Lavinia mysteriously disappears.

Overall, while the story is very in line with further rounding the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole, it is quite different from Lovecraft’s typical stories. This is more focused on humans and despite how little the great cosmos thinks of them, they were able to vanquish the horrible monstrosity, although the true threat still lurks in the dark periphery that humans are not allowed to glimpse into.

It feels real, Dunwich feels real, the terror of what characters go through feels real. It is the unspeakable terror that desecrates a small town. It lurks in the night but is preceding something far, far worse.

Nevertheless, humans prevented what would have been a global disaster, even if it may inevitably be temporary. While the story may not necessarily be about this triumph, but rather that we will never truly know the extent and power to which beings beyond us possess, and how many people are willing to give their devotion and whole life to it.

This is one of Lovecraft’s more accessible stories if you will. It is weird, yet grounded in his unconventional reality, and is an interesting mix of science fiction and horror. He gives vivid descriptions of the area and surroundings, immersing you into it, allowing you to visualize what types of horrors will befall this tiny outskirt village.

It is not like his typical stories, it has appeal for larger audiences, is weirder and almost surreal than his bone-chilling horror and is among his more popular works. He makes many exceptions to his rules and theories on this universe and mythos he has created, and although “The Dunwich Horror” bends that, it is done so to a great effect. A wonderful tale is created in the process, and his pantheon of horrors is expanded.

-Farrah M.

Th Dunwich Horror and other tales from H.P. Lovecraft are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: H.P. Lovecraft

Although many people do not know Howard Philips Lovecraft, what many people do know is his works. His stories precede him and are a staple in pop culture.

Born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft was born the only child to Winfield Scott Lovecraft and Sarah Susie Philips Lovecraft. Throughout his childhood Lovecraft was shown to be remarkable and intelligent, being able to read and write at the age of 3.

Lovecraft did not begin to write actual stories until the early 1900s, with his first short story “The Alchemist” being published in 1916. Soon after, “The Tomb” and “Dagon” were published. “Dagon” is considered to be the first of Lovecraft’s works that would eventually be grouped in a collection called The Cthulhu Mythos, coined by a close friend, August Derleth.

This mythos, meant to encompass Lovecraft’s stories which focused on the terrifying unknown and the capricious nature of the universe, includes a pantheon of terrible god-like beings called The Great Old Ones. This is partially inspired by the Greek pantheon, albeit a twisted, nightmarish vision of gods that watch over the universe and earth.

Stories such as “The Call of Cthulhu”, “At The Mountains of Madness”, “The Dunwich Horror”, and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” are the most popular of Lovecraft’s. He is also considered the pioneer of cosmic horror, a subgenre which emphasizes the insignificance of human’s actions because in the grand scheme of the universe we are nothing but playthings to horrors that lurk just beyond our solar system.

Other items from Lovecraft’s stories, such as the fictional city of Arkham, the nefarious Necronomicon, and even the great Cthulhu himself have been referenced in pop culture despite many people not knowing the true origins from which these staples come from.

Lovecraft’s stories as a whole are extremely well written and do a good job of sucking the reader in and keeping hold of them until they finish the story. Although the dialogue occasionally comes off as somewhat stilted and unnatural they are nonetheless excellent, terrifying stories. They are unsettling and they leave the reader with a looming sense of dread unlike any other.

The idea of an uncaring universe, with beings that we cannot even begin to comprehend existing just outside of our peripheral vision, brings out that instinctual, deep fear of the unknown, and the fear of being all alone.

The works of H. P. Lovecraft are available at the Mission Viejo Library. 

End of Watch by Stephen King

Only a mind like Stephen King could catalyze such strange, thrilling storylines and concepts as those presented in his 2016 novel, the third and final installment of the Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch. I admit, I began reading the novel blindly with no background on the previous two installments of the series but was appeased by the fact that King was extremely articulate in giving background on the origins of the trilogy, which easily made End of Watch a more enjoyable and smooth read.

End of Watch features a diverse array of characters, centering on retired Detective Bill Hodges as he juggles monumental health issues and an even more monumental case: a large stretch of suicides sharing a single common link, a handheld video game console with a strangely hypnotic effect. Hodges and his makeshift team — his current and former partners, Holly Gibney and Pete Huntley, and his lawnboy-turned-friend, Jerome — follow the sinister paths taken by Brady Hartsfield, the culprit of the so-called “Mercedes Massacre” that King created for the first book of the trilogy, Mr. Mercedes.

Through pages of suspense and moment after moment of action and mystery from King’s wild imagination, to the saddening farewell of the final pages, End of Watch brings the classic Stephen King “stranded in the murk” feeling, leaving us wandering stone-blind and never knowing when the next plot twist or mind-bending connection will strike. The premise made for King’s legendary style without a hitch and makes us consider the possibilities before swiping to play a video game again.

Upon closing the final curtain and concluding my journey with the characters in the book, I was struck with two very different realizations: the frightening reality of suicide cases across the globe and the authentic ties between friendships. Every character had a unique interaction with each other, which only made the story even more realistic, and consequently, all the more chilling.

So be careful next time you play a new game of Fishin’ Hole — or read a Stephen King novel — you might find it hypnotizing.

—Keira D.

End of Watch by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book is about a kid who lives in a graveyard due to the murder of his parents. Bod Owens, short for Nobody lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts and mentored by an apparition neither from the world of the living nor the dead named Silas.

As the book goes on, readers learn more about the man that killed Bod’s family. It turns out that he was hired, and is part of an organization called the Jacks of All Trades. As Bod explores the graveyard and learns to do things like disappear or phase through things he comes to the realization that he will soon have to go out into the real world. This realization scares him because the man that killed his family hasn’t been caught, and is probably still looking for him.

Silas and Mr and Mrs. Owens prepare him for a confrontation with the man, and it comes sooner than expected, and with more men from the Jacks of All Trades. Bod picks them off one by one, and finally comes face to face with the Jack that was supposed to kill him. Using his knowledge of the graveyard, Bod traps Jack and escapes. After this, he starts seeing the ghosts less and less often, until he can no longer see them.

-Emilio V.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Hunger by Michael Grant

Hunger, written by Michael Grant, is the well written sequel to Gone. In the first book, everyone above the age of fifteen disappears. The other kids, fourteen and under, need to survive. But, when the kids have their birthday and turn fifteen, they have a choice. They could either step out of the FAYZ (the area where all adults have disappeared) or they could stay. In Hunger, Sam and his friends decide to stay, and now the kids are running out of food, water, and are on the brink of death.

I really enjoyed this book; especially because of how suspenseful and gruesome it is compared to the first novel. Even in the first chapter, a innocent boy dies to a swarm of mutated worms that burrow into his body. This was a thrilling start to the book and kept me on edge throughout the novel!

Beside food shortages, Sam’s evil brother Caine is back and wants revenge. In between books, Caine has been visiting a dark creature. It has been living under ground in a mine shaft waiting for someone to find it. In order to survive, the Darkness needs  radioactive substances. Caine goes to the power plant, takes it over, and then takes the Darkness its food.

In the climax of the book, Sam and his friends try to stop Caine and the Darkness. Surprisingly, Caine ends up betraying the Darkness and burying it in the mine shaft! Sam and Caine part ways and the kids discover a way to produce food by fishing and farming. I really enjoyed this book, especially with all of its surprising twists, deaths, and an all around great story line.

-Daniel C

Hunger by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

Psycho is an amazing piece of both horror and suspense. One day when my mom and my little brother where at Sea World, I took advantage of the time to watch some good, old classic horror movies with my dad. At first we watched Apocalypse Now, a movie about a soldier in the Vietnam War. Then we stumbled upon Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, a movie about Norman Bates and his crazy relationship with his mother.

At first the movie was kind of slow and didn’t reach the suspense fast enough to call it the first slasher film in film history. Then as the movie kept on going and going it got to the part that made it so famous. The stunning thing about it was that you never would have seen any of these parts in the movie happen.

If I went to see Frankenstein or Dracula I wouldn’t see anything I saw in Psycho. For this review I really had to put myself in someone else shoes. It made me think how this film would make me feel if I was alive in the 1960s. This film would shock me because there was so much suspense in the film. For example, the music–an excellent job by Bernard Herrmann–had me at the edge of my seat because it was so suspenseful.

In general, the entire movie was outstanding a real master piece of both suspense and horror. This film earned this title “the first slasher movie ever”. In my mind this film put Alfred Hitchcock on the map in my opinion. This film not only was remarkably successful but, this film inspired a lot of films like it. This movie has a perfect score in my mind.

-Max U.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library