Read two this week, each so, so excellent. Got like fourteen seconds here to say something about them, but I’ll try to steal fourteen more, too, as I can’t not say something about them:
Horrorstor was fun, definitely, but, gotta say: I keyed on the horror stuff, but the IKEA stuff, it went right past me, I think. I’m both not remotely interested in furniture or . . . ‘decor,’ is that the word? and, probably because of that, I’ve never been in an IKEA. I think I heard a comedian do a bit about it, once? And I know I saw one from an interstate. Anyway, the design of that one was fun, and the story worked. My Best Friend’s Exorcism, though, this one’s a whole new order of novel. I mean, sure, it’s got the design-fun—it looks like a yearbook, a little—and it’s definitely drawing on the same well of nostalgia Ready Player One does, that being a well I spend some time at myself, but more than all of that, this is just a story that’s:
Which, those four? That’s pretty much exactly my requirements for a solid reading experience. I didn’t want this one to be over. I want to read it again. I will read it again.
Also, I think it’s cool that this is . . . what, the third kind of spin on the stock exorcism story we all know and love? First there was the movie The Last Exorcism, which I didn’t much dig (I’ve only once ever fell for a story that ends with people in the woods doing cult-y scary things—such a cheap way to end a story, with confirmation that then kind of pinches the horror off, leaves is THERE, not HERE, whereas, say . . . May, it ‘confirms’ at the end, but in a way that wriggles into our world), Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, which rocks, and now this.
I think the audience is getting tired of the same old thing as regards exorcism stories. So they’re ranging out to the periphery of what can count as one. And find some really solid fare, that’ll then get smuggled back to the center, become core for a while.
And, the other novel—just finished it maybe five minutes ago—is Off the Grid, by CJ Box. Can’t believe this is already the sixteenth of these. Maybe the seventeenth? I’ve been there since Open Season, though, and this series, man, it’s never stumbled even once.
For those who don’t know it: game-warden Joe Pickett always finds himself in the middle of a building mess, and has to shoot his way out (which doesn’t work, as he’s no great shot) or drive his way out (which doesn’t work, as his trucks always get trashed—much like the sheriff in Eureka, now that I think about it . . .). We watch his family grow, we watch his town change, we watch Wyoming move and settle. It’s really wonderful. And? We watch his friendship with killer-outlaw Nate develop. At first I thought this was an Elvis Cole’s Joe Pike—the one who brings the hammer down. Which Nate is. But, all these books in, and especially now, with this one, Joe and Nate are starting to come off more like Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard, really.
This is some of the best, most compulsive reading I get to do each year. When I’m reading a CJ Box—this series or the standalones—I realize that that’s pretty much what I want to do with the rest of my life: read CJ Box books. He writes about people I know, his stories move through landscapes I know. I can’t always say I agree with all of the politics that sometimes finds voice in the books . . . but I can’t say Joe Pickett does either. And I definitely can’t say CJ Box does. He’s very even-handed, the way he gets things down on the page.
Seriously, I can’t recommend this whole series enough. Kind of wish I could push a button, erase them from my head, just to burn through them all again. But I may burn through them all again at some point anyway.