Sunday, 22 December 2013

Challenge round-up: Aussie Horror Reading Challenge

This year I challenged myself to read at least five horror books by Australian authors, preferably more. Well, I managed to read eleven Aussie horror books, so yay! I defined horror a little broadly, including scary/creepy books that weren't necessarily marketed as horror, but not including paranormal books unless they were actually scary or creepy. Looking over the list now, there's a surprising number of short story collections.

So here's the list, with short excerpts from the corresponding reviews. Click through the obvious links for the full reviews.
After the Darkness by Honey Brown (review)
Although the book is called After the Darkness, it's really about how hard it is to leave the darkness behind. ... It's also about how darkness is often contagious, touching on the way in which abuse victims often go on to re-enact their trauma as a way of coming to terms with it. And the hopelessness that comes with fearing for your life. And having to relate to people in a life you have to pretend is normal.
Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren, a collection of short stories (review)
"Creek" is about quaking women who drowned in creeks. They claw their way through Australia's shallow creekbeds and call out, demanding to know what happened to their loved-ones. Olivia, our protagonist, first encountered them when she was young and has been haunted by them ever since.

Ishtar edited by Amanda Pillar and KV Taylor, an anthology of three novellas about the goddess Ishtar (review)
The three novellas cover the past, the present and the future and together tell an overarching story of Ishtar's trail through thousands of years of humanity. Overall, I was impressed at how well the three novellas hung together and told a cohesive overarching story.

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott (review)
McDermott made me think about the relationship between the mundane and the horrifying. One doesn't have to peel back many layers to find unpleasantness in the sisters' lives, but McDermott keeps peeling until all they're left with is reality (or some facsimile thereof) and each other.
The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton, short story collection (review)
Overall, I was very impressed with Anderton's worldbuilding in all the stories. Each story read like a glimpse into a complete and carefully constructed world. Just because the stories are short, Anderton in no way skimped on the thought put into them. Even for the stories set in some approximation of the modern world, careful details made them stand out.
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (review)
Isola has a particular attachment to a book of fairytales her mother used to read from when she was younger — darker fairytales than the usual Grimm and Andersen — and throughout the text we're treated to several of the stories from that book. I've found those sorts of interludes jarring in other books, but in Fairytales for Wilde Girls they flowed and tied in with the overall story nicely.
Happy Endings by Will Elliott, short story collection (review)
"The Hungry Man" is probably the scariest story, but I'm not sure I can say why without spoiling it. I also quite liked "Charlie the Sheep" and "Axed". And the novella "Lucy's Wrists" is an interesting trip into a psych hospital with a doctor experimenting on some of his patients.

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott (review)
 Madigan Mine is eerie, haunting (and haunted) and intense. Alex's journey is not an easy one for him nor for the people around him. Right up until the end I wasn't sure if he was going to survive the book. McDermott's début is an excellent start to what I hope will be a long career.
Mistification by Kaaron Warren (review)
From a subgenre perspective, Mistification defies classification. It's not horrific in the same way as other Warren books and stories I've read have been, but it's still a bit eerie. Nothing terribly horrible happened (well, not to the main characters anyway), but it was far from a cheery tale. And there was magic, it could've been magical realism if not for the way the existence of magic was stressed. It's also quite literary — character, not plot, driven — and that might not be for everyone. I think it's a book that will be enjoyed much more by people who can appreciate the writing rather than demanding an action-based plot.
The Beckoning by Paul Collins (review)
As I've said, this book was not for me, but I think people into psychic antichrist cult type books will enjoy it. And I think it would probably work as a movie. Fans of straightforward horror, with violence, creepy cult leaders and potentially world-ending doom will probably enjoy this one more than I did.
Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart (review)
The pacing in this novel is brilliant. It's not a short read, but even though it took me a while to get through (because life etc) it was sufficiently well-paced that it felt like it would be a quick read. It wasn't all action all the time, but there was never a dull moment. I felt I always wanted to know what happened next, even when the point of view switched away from Devlin and Jen to the characters on the other side of the equation.
All in all, I consider that I successful challenge. Not every book I read was a hit, but there were significantly more hits than misses. I look forward to continuing to read Aussie horror in the new year.


  1. I hope you're not done with reading horror yet – "Darker" is published on 29 December!!

    1. Only done for the year. I fully intend to keep going next year. ;-)