Category Archives: Horror

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeTitle: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Publication Date: 1886

Review Score: 9/10

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a dark, psychological thriller that tells the tale of the respectable, well to do Dr Jekyll and his somewhat baffling association with the contemptible Mr Hyde.

Within this novella we follow one Gabriel John Utterson, a Lawyer who investigates the strange occurrences between his old friend Dr Jekyll and the mysterious Mr Hyde. What follows is a hunt through the streets of London for a killer, a journey of self discovery for the Dr and the shocking revelation of Mr Hyde’s true identity.

I read this book directly after finishing Dracula and Frankenstein, as it only seemed appropriate to read the 3 most renowned classic horror stories together, and I must say I think this was my favourite of the lot.

As with Dracula and Frankenstein I was pretty sure of the ending before I began reading, thanks to years of dodgy film adaptations, but even so I found it no less exhilarating or shocking.

This is only a small book and it keeps you gripped all the way through, what’s more, although written over 100 years ago the ideas are still highly applicable to modern day, as the main theme is based around multiple personality disorder, and so it is still interesting and entertaining even by today’s standards.

The characters and scenes are truly dark and disturbing, thanks to the eloquence and style of Stevenson’s writing and the ideas are original, interesting and brilliant. Overall The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a wonderfully chilling book and the only downside is that it all seems to be over so quickly!

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A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift

Title: A Modest Proposal

Author: Jonathan Swift

Publication Date: 1729

Review Score: 8/10

A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay, written by Swift in 1729, in response to the high level of poverty in Ireland and far removed gluttonous lifestyle of the rich landlords. The full title of the essay is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick and it is with regards to the children of the poor that Swift believes he has found a way to ease the suffering in Ireland.

Swift proposes that the poor in Ireland could sell their young as food for the rich, once they have stopped breast feeding and become a financial burden. This way the poor family would not need to feed and clothe the child, plus would receive a sum for selling them! Meanwhile the rich would have a new delicacy and the overpopulation problem would be solved!

Although the idea of this social commentary turns the stomach at points, with its detailed descriptions of the various ways in which the children could be slaughtered, prepared and cooked, it is incredibly clever in the way it pokes and provokes the unfair spread of wealth within Ireland during the 18th century.

Provocative and thought provoking, Swift partakes in reductio ad absurdum, taking the social situation to its most ridiculous lengths, but in doing so highlights the horrific situation that is taking place across the country.

Obviously Swift’s essay does not serve up a real, practical solution to the problem of poverty but that is not the point, the point is to get people to realise how ridiculous the situation is and try and change things!

Not really a novel and not really fiction but I am still very glad A Modest Proposal was on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die.

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The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allen Poe

Title: The Pit and the Pendulum

Author: Edgar Allen Poe

Publication Date: 1843

Review Score: 7/10

Set during the Spanish Inquisition, the story begins with an unnamed narrator facing a panel of sinister judges who condemn him to death. The narrator then finds himself in a pitch black cell, which he discovers, through feeling his way around, is a cylinder with a giant pit in the middle of the room.

Although food and water sometimes mysteriously appears it seems as if death is the only possible outcome in this cell. At one point he awakes to find himself strapped down with a giant pendulum coming ever closer to his body and promising certain death.

The narrator manages to free himself but his mind is torn, death seems a certainty, but what will be less painful, a fall into an unknown abyss or the knife edge of the giant pendulum?

Before he can decide the walls start to burn red hot and push him closer towards the edge of the abyss, it seems his fate is decided, or is it?

Published in 1842, The Pit and the Pendulum is still as dark, twisted and bone chilling as I can imagine it was when first released. The ideas seem to come from a somewhat disturbed mind and although only a short story the level of description is fantastic, dragging you in as if you are right beside the unnamed man as he discovers his fate.

I have not read much of Edgar Allen Poe but this is by far my favourite of the stories I have read. The ideas that Poe comes up with in this story are bizarre and chilling even by today’s standards and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys horror novels.

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The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allen Poe

Title: The Fall of the House of Usher

Author: Edgar Allen Poe

Publication Date: 1839

Review Score: 7/10

We join this story as an unnamed narrator arrives at The House of Usher, to visit his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher, who has written for help, complaining of illness. It soon transpires that Roderick Usher is suffering from deep psychological issues, which although had not been defined at the time of writing this novel, can be seen as what we now call anxiety, hypochondria and delirium.

We soon learn that it is not just Roderick that is suffering from these illnesses but also his twin sister Madeline, who has a habit of falling into death like trances. The narrator spends his time trying to comfort Roderick, reading with him, playing music and musing, but it is not long before tragedy hits as Madeline passes away.

The pair place the girl to rest in the family tomb, hoping to put an end to her torment. But soon they are shaken by strange noises and a horrific feeling that perhaps she was laid to rest to soon!

I suppose the first thing that needs to be addressed with The Fall of the House of Usher is that it is not actually a novel by its own right but rather a short story. This is the first short story I have come across on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list but they justify the selection as it would seem mad not to reference such an influential writer as Edgar Allen Poe on the list!

Whether or not a short story should feature is not for me to decide, (I didn’t write the list!) and so all I can comment on really is what I thought of the story. This was the first piece by Poe I have read and I was highly impressed! Although the story is very short, Poe is able to build up the tension beautifully leading to a highly dramatic and enthralling crescendo.

Given that it was written over 180 years ago, it doesn’t pack the same punch as I’m sure it did then, given all the horror films and more graphic novels we are now privy too. However, the story is still rather chilling and unsettling and is clearly a huge inspiration for many modern day horror novels.

It may not be the most exciting or exhilarating book you ever read but it will definitely leave an impression. Put it this way, it took 20 minutes to read but will be remembered for a life time!

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