I recently went on a little Stephen Graham Jones reading spree. I started with It Came from Del Rio, then I jumped into The Ones that Got Away, each one on my Nook. While reading those I read Growing up Dead in Texas in paper back. SGJ is a great writer, I have enjoyed everything I have read from him and plan on getting into more of his books in the future. I decided to write reviews for all three of these books, but instead of posting each one of them on here I figured I would just do one big post.
My Review of It Came from Del Rio by Stephen Graham Jones
Forgetting the fact that everything I’ve read from SGJ was exceptionally great, I would want to read, It Came from Del Rio for the cover alone. It reminds me of a comic book cover, one that would have come from something like DC’s Vertigo line, not from the standard super hero books. And because of this cover I expected a crazy horror, slasher novel, or something close. But I’ve read SGJ before, so why would I even think that.
We begin with the story of Dodd, a fugitive hiding out in Mexico with his young daughter, Laurie. Dodd transports things across the border for the right amount of money, and he’s really good at it. Only one day a job comes up that is quite out of the ordinary. Dodd gets put into a situation where he doesn’t have a choice whether or not to take this job, that choice has been made for him. With the end of this job comes the end of the first half of the book. The second half picks up fifteen years later, with Laurie as an adult and a member of The Border Patrol. She has a new life, but she has never forgotten the one she had as a child, living in Mexico with her dad. And then the killings start.
This book is written like journal entries, the first half from the perspective of Dodd, the second from Laurie. In less capable hands this could have been a disaster, but thankfully we have Stephen Graham Jones at the helm. And to touch on what I mentioned earlier this book wasn’t anything like I expected. What I enjoyed the most was the early relationship between Dodd and Laurie, and how it made me feel for the little girl when her father left for that last job. That right there is why SGJ is a master at the written word, he creates real characters, ones that you care about, and feel for. Originally I thought this book would just be like a pulpy horror novel, but it is so much more, and I am very happy about that.
So, yeah, everyone should read this, and everything else he has written. You would be doing yourself a favor. Also, did I mention the Hell Bunny? This is called part one of The Bunny head Chronicles, I don’t know what the plans are for any sequels but I’ll be ready if he puts them out. Though I’m sure they couldn’t top this one, could they?
Buy it here It Came from Del Rio
My Review of The Ones that Got Away
So everyone knows Stephen Graham Jones is the man, right? This guy can write stories in his sleep that for anyone else it would take years. Oh, you don’t know SGJ? Do you need something of his to introduce you to his writing? The Ones that Got Away may be the perfect place to start, provided you can handle it.
Featuring thirteen stories most of which were originally published between 2005 and 2010. These stories seem all over the place, and to label them as just horror stories would be an injustice. But they all share the common thread that they are excellent. It’s rare that you can pick up a collection of short stories and really enjoy every single story. Even the weakest story from this collection could be the best short you read all year.
I don’t want to individually go into each story, so I’ll just hit on a couple of my favorites.
Till the Morning Comes is a disturbing little tale about a boy forced to share his room with his little brother when his uncle comes to live with them. There are things in his uncle’s room that he sees that keep him awake at night, and things that he hears. One desperate night he sends his little brother into their uncle’s room because he’s too scared to go himself, and that act will change the whole family.
So Perfect reminded me of the old movie Heathers with Christian Slater and Wynonna Ryder. And for whatever reason it also made me think of Jawbreaker with Rose McGowan and Rebecca Gayheart. It’s the story of two pretty popular girls who find a new dieting technique, and the prank they play on one of their loser classmates.
And finally there’s the story that closes out the collection, Crawlspace. Partly it’s about the relationship with our narrator and his best friend Quint; partly it’s about the narrator’s struggle with his infidelity. But there’s also Quint’s obsession with proving his newborn son is telepathic, and that he can cause him to wake up crying simply by reading horror novels. This story in itself could have been a novel, or a novella at the least. It’s very engrossing. The characters are interesting and Jones’ writing is top notch.
Reading this collection I found myself deeply involved in each story, and just as deeply disappointed when they came to their conclusion. This book is perfect for any fans of SGJ work, or anyone wanting to check him out for the first time.
Buy it here The Ones that Got Away
My Review of Growing up Dead in Texas
How do I convince people how great this book is and get them to want to read it? Short of saying ‘You need to read this book’ over and over again I will try to say something that expresses how much you should read it.
On the surface it’s about a fire that took out twenty-five modules of cotton. That is a major topic throughout the book, but it’s just the beginning. In almost three hundred pages we are shown life in the small town of Greenwood, and follow Stephen Graham Jones as he pieces together all the events that followed that fire.
If you’ve read anything by SGJ then I don’t need to say that his writing is superb. But in this novel he goes beyond anything I’ve read from him before. It’s stellar, it’s awesome, or maybe it deserves a new word created just to describe it. This isn’t a start at point A and end up at point B kind of book though. We are introduced to situations in chapter one that seem innocent at a glance, but when we revisit them in chapter eleven we understand the true meaning. He slips through various tales with ease. He stops one story in chapter two with ‘and that’s how I want to leave them for now.’, and picks it back up in chapter three after filling in some gaps and interjecting bits about himself from this time period.
This is a book about Hot Wheels, it’s also about telephones and calling people. It’s about the tournament game short, not one, but two players. It’s about family, family that has been lost and family that you protect. It doesn’t really matter what I say this book is about, you should just read it.
Buy it here Growing up Dead in Texas
Even though the market for the zombie genre is getting over-saturated I’m still a pretty big fan of the living dead. What I mean by big fan is really more toward the visual side, movies, television shows, and video games. It wasn’t until here recently that I started reading books and stories featuring the undead. I used to think that a good zombie apocalypse would be hard to translate to the written word in an entertaining way. I have since realized I was wrong.
This book starts out like a lot of horror movies, with kids out partying and getting into trouble. While out joy riding in one of their dads bakery truck they run over what appears to be a drunk guy. They do the horror movie thing and try to cover it up, because that always works so well. The real meat of the story takes place the next day at a convention center, which is rented to a group called Recipe Days during the day time. In the evening the convention center is rented to pro wrestlers coming to do a show. The two groups over lap when the wrestlers show up early. After intimidating the ladies from Recipe Days they help themselves to some doughnuts from a certain bakery truck. What follows is one extremely entertaining read. Once the action kicks in it does not let up.
SGJ treats us to a unique and interesting Zombie story where the survivors are not your normal one-dimensional horror fare. His characters are very real, intelligent people fighting for their lives. Also, with his zombies he adds some new interesting twists.
Jones is a master storyteller, I have enjoyed everything I’ve read from him quite a bit, and this book was no exception. I have been having trouble reading paper books in a decent amount of time, recently I read e-books because I get through them faster. But I read this as a paper book and it kept me turning the pages and so engrossed in the story that I finished it in about a week. I recommend this book to not only zombie lovers, but anyone who likes action on top of a good story.
Buy it here Zombie Bake-Off on Amazon