Monday, July 23, 2007

The Horror of It All

I went to the library the other day, and decided "I want to read a horror novel." Since I'm terribly impulsive--and the library was about to close--I grabbed one by an author I'd never read before, but whom I'd seen on store shelves. The book was To Wake the Dead by Richard Laymon.

Where to begin with this awful book? First, I have no idea whether this is typical of his books, but this was absolutely steeped in sex. It was bizarre, really. Nearly every character in the novel has sex, is forced to have sex, and constantly thinks about sex. It's the sole way all of his characters interacted, and it seemed completely silly. It makes Laymon seem juvenile. It's like he doesn't understand that it's the 1,000 small moments of the day that bring two people together, in addition to the intimate moments.

The plot was hackneyed. A mummy has been released and is wreaking vengeance on the world at night. Yes it's a simple, cliched plot, but I honestly thought he'd do something new with it. Nope. A "seal against evil" has been broken and the mummy kills until it's destroyed in Hollywood fashion. Yawn.

The characters are awful, too. I write this with no exaggeration: Not one single character acted in a believable way. I don't claim to know everything about human nature, but I'm wondering what kind of screwed-up life Laymon had (he died in 2001). It's as though he never actually interacted with people, but wrote from things he read or saw on TV.

The book has a high body count, but these characters were so poorly drawn that I didn't care if anyone died.

I think the most important question I have to ask myself is: Why did I keep reading? The truth is it was like a horrible car accident--you know you shouldn't look but you want to know what happened. Also, Laymon was quite popular in the UK, and won some awards. I kept reading thinking, Something's gotta change; this can't be all there is to him. But it was.

In the introduction to the book, Dean Koontz wrote something like, "Richard writes drastically different books than I do..." I think I know exactly what was meant by that. Say what you like about Koontz and his writing, but at its core there beats a heart--a soul. Laymon's novel was absolutely soulless, from the plotting to the characters to the sex obsession to...everything. I truly don't understand what people liked about his writing.

I will never read another word the man wrote, and I'm glad I checked this out from the library rather than spending money.

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