2 Book Lovers Reviews
About Jonathan Janz
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, which explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows "the best horror novel of 2012." The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub's Ghost Story."
2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species Publishers Weekly said, "Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror--Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows--will find much to relish." Jonathan's Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
Guest Post: Jonathan Janz
Five Fabulous Twenty-First Century Novels
When Greg asked me for five books that I thought were
representative of the best of 21st Century horror, I didn’t realize
how difficult it would be. By the time I’d brainstormed what I
thought were a few books, I realized the list had ballooned to
more than thirty. Because the five I’d choose would vary from
day to day, I decided I’d choose five for specific reasons rather
than simply choosing the five best. For instance, with Stephen
King alone, I battled with mentioning several different books.
FULL DARK, NO STARS contains a couple of the finest
novellas I’ve ever read. JOYLAND transported me the way the
best Ray Bradbury books do. But I finally settled on another tale to include here. Writers like Gillian Flynn, Joyce Carol Oates, Joe R. Lansdale, and too many others to name almost made the list. However…
Here it is.
RED, by Jack Ketchum
I chose this novel because it’s simply a cracking good tale. There’s suspense—nail-biting
suspense—impeccable characterization, and a perfectly plausible situation. Only Ketchum
could create a tale this taut out of a seemingly straightforward scenario. I’ve recommended
RED to probably forty different friends, and none of them have been anything but enthralled
by the book. That says a lot about Ketchum’s skill, and hopefully, it means I have smart
slightly; two, Brian is a good friend. So why did I choose GHOUL? Because, first off,
penalizing Brian because he’s a friend would have been a lousy thing to do. If folks think I’m
favoring him, they don’t know me and they don’t know Brian’s work. Secondly, I chose
me. They say that fiction is telling lies about people who never existed to tell us the truth
about ourselves. GHOUL does that in a remarkably unflinching way, and on top of that, it’s
a riveting coming-of-age yarn that’ll keep you up into the small hours of the night.
UNDER THE DOME, by Stephen King
Like all novels, this one has its detractors—It’s bloated! The ending doesn’t work! There are
too many perspectives!—but I’ll continue to champion its assets just as loudly and insistently.
King is my favorite writer of all time, and as I’ve written elsewhere, he’s the reason I’m both
a reader and a writer. The reasons for this are all on display in UNDER THE DOME. You
have a troubled, likeable protagonist; a believable, despicable antagonist; a dire situation not
unlike you’d find in the best Dystopian fiction; and you have a master of choreography and
sheer storytelling who brings it all together in a way no other writer could. Though I love just
about everything King writes (and at his worst, I still like what he writes), I’m partial to this
book because of its audacity, its lunacy, and its refusal to abandon hope.
THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy
Some scream, “But it’s not a horror novel! It’s—”
“A horror novel,” I answer. “Now stop complaining and enjoy it.”
Look, whether or not you consider this a genre book or not, you don’t have to be a fan of
McCarthy’s work to appreciate the stripped-down beauty of THE ROAD. Some would say the
lack of quotation marks is an affectation. I’d say that McCarthy’s decision to leave the
narrative as unadorned as possible is representative of its elemental power, its willingness
to present human depravity and nobility in their rawest forms. I was utterly horrified by
some of the book’s images—fans of McCarthy’s masterpiece will remember what I’m talking about—yet I was also moved to tears by the father’s love for his boy. Friends, this is the stuff of horror: the bad, the frightening, and the beautiful. THE ROAD is a heartbreaking modern classic.
HOUSE OF LEAVES, by Mark Z. Danielewski
Talk about divisive. This one, like the two I previously named, has its detractors. I
understand their criticisms, but when I’m reading a book, I’m not a gymnastics judge,
gazing at a work with slitted eyes and hoping to find a mistake. Sure, I notice mistakes or
wrong turnings, but far more often, I look for good in a work. I look for what’s interesting.
There’s a great deal that’s interesting in HOUSE OF LEAVES.
Part haunted house story, part experimental madness, the book was important in
teaching me that the boundaries I’d thought had existed in fiction were actually pretty
arbitrary. Oh, sure, you need to know the rules to break them, and if you break them, you
better darn well do it skillfully.
Danielewski does in HOUSE OF LEAVES. Man, does he ever.
Thanks for having me here today, Greg, and I hope you and all your readers have a fabulous Halloween!