Sneak Peek: On the Lips of Children by Mark Matthews

Mark Matthews is a SSV reviewer whose new novel, On the Lips of Children, has received numerous reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 average rating. It was nominated by one blogger as the Best Small Press Horror Novel of 2013. SSV is happy to give our readers a chance to read the prologue of the novel.

~~~

Meet Macon. Tattoo artist. Athlete. Family man.

He’s planning to run a marathon, but the event becomes something terrible.

During a warm-up run, Macon falls prey to a bizarre man and his wife who dwell in an underground drug-smuggling tunnel. They raise their twin children in a way Macon couldn’t imagine: skinning unexpecting victims for food and money.

And Macon, and his family, are next.

~~~

Between 2008 and 2012, US authorities discovered at least seventy-five drug smuggling tunnels along the length of the 1,950-mile border between Tijuana and Southern California.

This is the story of one of them.

Prologue

Particles of cave dust stirred in the air. Lupita felt them hit her nostrils, damp bits of subterranean soot going through her nose and then in and out of her lungs. The darkness was thick and impenetrable by sight, but movements of others were felt, and one of the hostages had just shifted. The tourists hadn’t tried to flee or she would have felt a small sandstorm in the dust. Even their breath made shadow particles move. They were still tied up and could only inchworm across the floor. They were done begging for help now; only small whimpers remained.

Dante had stabbed one who wouldn’t stop his begging and be quite. The high-pitched words of the captive screeched, and she could still hear them echoing forever in this cave. Now he was quiet and may have bled out. He could even be dead.

Hours went by, or days, or maybe months since the whole place had gone dark. The tunnel was shut down, caved in on the Tijuana side, and her husband was off to look for the way through. That was days ago—or hours. It was unclear. It had been long enough that the flashlight batteries were
dead.

“It goes to da USA, all da way. I know it; smuggled meth through here before. Smuggled people before. My brother went through before I did. And you and me, we’re going to go soon. Just got to hit one good lick.”

If they ever had a chance of getting anything for the hostages, it was over. One captive had proved promising after some cell phone calls. A family from the U.S. was to meet them at the duty-free shop. That was supposed to have happened already. She imagined them waiting there; maybe still looking, maybe gone, maybe they changed their minds and really thought the police might help.

The other ones were unclaimed, but stripped of all that they had and tied up tight.

Now she was buried alive with them in this dark tomb. This wasn’t one of those big tunnels, built like an elevator shaft with electricity; this was a pit, dug with barely a shovel, started but never completed, and now caved in, maybe on purpose.

All she knew was the flesh by her side, her babies, T and Q. Q, her little boy, hadn’t fed in a while and T, her girl, tried to suck at her breast, which had gone dry long ago. Q was starving and wasting away. Sometimes he shook, sometimes he gasped for air, but mostly he lay unconscious or asleep. She felt both of them disintegrating and eaten by the dark. Her and the bones of her two children lying side by side would be all that remained. They would never be found, but that might beat a life with Dante.

Their tongues were dry, her milk was gone, and the last bit of water in the plastic jug had evaporated. She wondered if her monthly bleeding would arrive to help her measure the time. She urinated often at first, had even lost count, but this had stopped, and there was little bowel to pass. Her fingers clamored over the flesh of her children, always feeling their skin, comforting every piece, holding them against her flesh, cradling them together. They may have been better off had their eyes never opened.

The cave was crude, but the room they were in had been given the most attention and made into a small chamber. There was space for belongings, a little table set up, and some crates of supplies. But it was now swimming in the dark pool of ink surrounding them and the voices of the hostages.

“Please, please, lady. Just let us go now. Please, let us out. We can all go together and get out of here.”

“I have children…”

“I’ll forget I saw you…”

“You don’t have to do this…”

They whimpered about wanting a Bible, made angry threats, and swore they could get money if they were just let go. They had that chance and failed. Then they cried and screamed for help from someone who would never come. They cried, and this made her babies scared and cry even harder.

After the light had gone away, Dante spent hours blaming her and then started stabbing the hostages. He was angry that his life was crumbling. It was the same way he had stabbed her and made these two children, the way he had ripped a knife through her old life when he took her from her garbage-picking family.

“You aren’t as dark as them. You’re half gringo. You learned English good. I can use you. Me and you together.”

She was seventeen then and ready to go with him. She never had a father, just tired men with skin full of dirt looking after her.

Yes, her father was a white TJ day-tripper. He came across the border with twenty-five dollars in search of Tijuana sex. Her mother told her so. She said, “I took twenty US dollars from him. I left him with five dollars, and he left me with you.”

Her father was just like one of these men they had cornered, maybe even one of them. All their captives had US money, and Dante had grand schemes of thousand-dollar licks, but the best they found was one man with a hundred on him. Most had under fifty and nobody who would pay to recover them. Now they were buried in this hole.

Lupita felt the fleshy heat on her palm start to get clammy and cold. Her child’s muscles seemed to be fading. A rub on the back, a fast rub as if to move her heart, did nothing. One started crying; the other was fading. Baby Q was going, slipping; his heart pumped so hard she was sure it would shoot light out of his eyes, light up this hell. Light it up! Going, her baby was going, and something had to be done.

She thought about smashing in her baby’s skulls and giving them a quick death, then finding a way to destroy herself, but their last thought would be that mommy killed them. This thought would stay with them into heaven. The orphanage told her all about heaven.

One baby was slipping, but the other baby’s tears echoed and crashed off the cave walls and sliced into her ears. Rocking back and forth didn’t soothe them. Hushing noises and melodies did nothing. Yes, both were still breathing but starving. Their tiny legs kicked, and it felt like holding the tiny little frogs she had caught as a child at the pond. Lupita closed her eyes and let an imaginary light shoot through her head. She saw a vision of her baby dying.

There was nothing left to give them. The only food was beef jerky. She chewed on a stick and mashed it up as much as she could, placing pieces in their mouths. Their tongues moved; she could tell they wanted to eat it. They needed it inside of them, but they just gagged, cried, and spit it out.

She tried foraging for food, rummaging through the old supplies, and then feeling her way with her hands blindly in front of her, inch by inch. Nothing was found that could be put in their stomachs, just some loose stones, more rope, empty water jugs, and one of Dante’s favorite weapons of choice: an X-Acto knife. She then blindly tried to return to her babies and had to follow the crying. She had lost them briefly in the dark.

Every instant in the darkness became the moment just before Dante returned, but the moment never happened. Her nails were worn down from the scratch marks she left on the plank of wood above the hatch, but did little damage. She smashed rocks against the wood until her shoulder ached. Her screams were heard by nobody but her children. Nobody was there, and nobody was coming.

These hostages were her only adult company; they were all she had.

“My father was someone like you, someone just like you,” she said, speaking to one who was tied up securely, yet still struggled off and on to break free. His breathing was heavy and labored, and his skin was sweaty with fear. He had soiled his shorts, and the stench surrounded him.

“Why don’t you have sex with women on your side? Why do you come here? Are you my father? Did you do this and leave me with my mother? She left me too, left me to the orphanage nuns, and then to the smell of garbage that is still in my nose… Are you him?”

She grabbed the man’s calf, felt the thick muscle, and thought of a turkey drum stick. He tried to jerk away, but before he could move her knife shredded his pant leg and delved into his flesh, twisting and turning. She felt an incredible life-force in him flinch. A shriek came from underneath his gag, but she was surprised and thought it would be more. His fight was gone, but the blood was coming. She could feel it trickle onto her fingers, let it cup into her hands, and then placed a drop on her child’s tongue.

Baby Q’s tongue took moments to notice anything, but soon the tiny mouth of the babe began to suck on her finger. She pulled the finger out of his mouth, dipped it back into the pool of blood puddling in her other hand, and then tapped it back on the child’s tongue. Q’s tongue lapped,
became wet, and then he swallowed, coughed twice, and somehow found enough energy to cry. Then he cooed.

She wouldn’t let them die; she couldn’t. All that had been done at birth to keep them healthy and alive, and now they were near death before their eyes had barely seen the light of day. In each of them was a promise that part of her would go on living, instead of feeling like she did, just grey meat
that had died long ago.

She sliced the captive’s leg a bit more with the knife. His screams echoed, but he was too tied up to struggle. The others fought against the cutting when it was their turn. Dante could tie anyone up securely; he could trap anyone, and now it was easy to draw blood. Cut the flesh, wait for the warm spurt of blood, make a nice pool in her hand, and then dip a finger
into the thick fluid before placing it on her baby’s tongue.

Just a bit more until Dante comes back. She would survive this; she would see to it that her children were fed and cared for. And they would live… because it was working. Three hours later, after more feedings, she felt Q pass urine. And then T.

During her days of garbage picking, they had eaten worse: meat with flies on it, animals captured in wreckage, dogs that had died, soup made from bones with maggots.

She found she could feed alongside her children. Q and T needed their mother, and she would eat and nourish with the same meat and blood, just as they had. They clawed at her with their new energy, and she had some to give back.

They sat and waited for Dante’s return. Her baby’s life depended on him; all of their lives depended on him. Her whole life revolved around if this man was strong enough and cared enough to come back. She waited. They waited. He’d left them, found a way out and left them… or just forgot about them. She would have felt it if he was coming back. His orange booted feet, the scent of his breath, the glare of his eyes, all of it would have been picked up by her senses in advance. The metal edges of the knife became an extension of her hand.

Her babies started to move. Tiny limbs started to reach and stretch, heads turned side to side, and they cooed when fed regularly. Only three of the five bodies in the chamber were still alive, all three of them making noises behind their gags, but none of them mattered. She picked the ones
who moaned the most, the ones closest to dying, and drained them carefully so as not to push them over the edge. Small cuts bled them, but kept them alive.

Bloody fluid started to cover her precious children. She couldn’t see it, but could feel it thick and spread all over. Her shirt was sticky with it, and Q and T had it on their chest, their hands, and their lips. She tried to keep them clean, but was unable. Nobody was to see them again, she knew, and
these moments were her last with them. People like her don’t get to be with their children forever, but their bodies can rest here and remain.

These children, these bits of flesh pulled out of her, now as bloody as the day they were born, were being kept alive by the blood of these TJ men, who didn’t deserve the organs inside that kept them alive day after day.

So she pulled tiny bits of flesh off of the TJ day-trippers, chunks she could sliver off and chew herself, like the beef jerky before, but mashing and mashing and mashing until it was almost as smooth and liquid as the blood.

Bowels came and went, sleeping patterns become regular, playtime was moving their fingers together, playing Itsy Bitsy Spider, letting the twins feel the flesh of each other, telling them stories, pulling them as tight together as they had been inside her womb.

And the darkness in the air seemed to be lifting.

Then the noise came.

And soon after… the light.

-=/-\=-

You can find more information about the author, Mark Matthews, and his work on his website.

Advertisements

Die, You Bastard, Die! ~ Jan Kozlowski

  • Title: “Die, You Bastard, Die!”
  • Author: Jan Kozlowski
  • Genre: Thriller/Horror/Dark Fiction
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Mark Matthews
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Claire is a first-rate paramedic, with a heroic devotion to saving lives. She is also a survivor of unspeakable abuse, who has rebuilt herself entirely, as far from home as she could get.

But when her aged father is hospitalized, after a crippling fall, Claire is dragged back into a brutal nightmare of sexual depravity, and deepest betrayal. Where the only question left is, “How can I possibly survive?”

And the only answer is, “DIE, YOU BASTARD! DIE!”

Review:  Wow. How to describe this book? It blew me away. The experience reading it was powerful. Much like the title, this book makes no apologies, and after reading it, I certainly don’t need one.

It started out as a great novel with distinct, interesting characters and intense enough action scenes. I fully trusted the author and entered into her world, ready to partake in a great thriller.

What I wasn’t ready for was a hand to shoot out of the pages and suddenly put a knife to my throat, but that was basically what happened. My eyeballs started to bleed and my heart shed tears.

This is not so much horror as it is ultra-realism. The horror isn’t what is happening in the book as much as what can happen at the hands of humans. Things we want to dismiss. This is a great piece of work, not some gratuitous bit of shock horror. I didn’t ever get that feeling that the author was smirking behind the page, just happy she grossed us out. Characters under pressure had their essence squeezed out of them, and with each bit of action and dialogue these people were brought to life. The sickness that existed in their hearts never wavered, which made the story all that more terrifying. The journey of the main character was riveting, never cliche, and never certain.

But there were moments where I looked away from the pages, thinking, if this continues, I don’t know how much more I can take. The author turns up the intensity and lets you boil for a while, but always seems to gauge where the reader is at and turns the story to a place you can continue. It demanded breaks, but commanded your attention. I became like a kid covering my face with my hands but peeking thru my fingers. This book is no escapism like some horror or dark fiction, but it is a fantastic piece of art.

SSV Staff aka the Best!

What is Silk Screen Views?
SSV is a blog about books, writing, authors, literary related entertainment and hobbies that perk our interest. I started this blog at the end of February of 2013 on a whim to do something I have not yet done, and it quickly grew into a larger entity with goals and ideas that everyone on SSV shares.

This little blog would not be possible without the wonderful staff members that make up Silk Screen Views. If it wasn’t for the amazing crew, SSV would have died off when I became engrossed in other parts of my life. Thanksgiving just passed and I feel that this post is perfect way to wrap up this week.

Silk Screen Views’ Crew is the Best!!!

Thank you from the bottom of my silly heart! I know I haven’t said thank you enough for everything you guys have done over the past several months. I may be the founder, but all I’ve been for the past few months is a glorified posting director. SSV would not be what it is without you guys sharing your love of books and writing. It would be nothing without you all putting in drafts for me to publish.

I love the fact that each of us are wildly different and yet we share a love of books, writing and diverse passions with zeal. I think it’s great that we can all read a book and have really different outlooks on it. We may all have loved reading it but it isn’t necessarily for the same reasons.

Thank you for being the best group of individuals, being a part of what makes SSV tick and putting up with me when I’m not entirely present. I promise to make more time for our little piece of the net.

Darth Val ~ You and I share a brand of geekdom in our love of comics. Though you are more mainstream and American than I. I grew up on Asian comics and read more manga. Yet, I am a fan of western delights like Sandman, X-Men, Superman, Batman and others. Thanks for being someone that I can count on.

Snarktastic Sonja ~ We love so many of the same books and series! Yet our reasons for loving them can be vastly different beyond the surface. I love that! You say you’re picky. You say that you don’t like to read a certain type of story that has certain elements and yet I’ll totally be surprised by you reading stuff I wouldn’t think you would touch. Some of them you love and some you dislike with utmost contempt. Just admit it, you’re an adventurer at heart and you’ll dive into anything if it seems interesting.

Irate Izzy ~ You’re my best friend, my sister from another mother/father, my partner in crime and a pain in my ass! No matter what, I’ll be there for you buddy! Even if you are the laziest staff member on SSV. This is true. Even she will say so. =P

Emma, the Greedy Reader ~ Despite some challenges due to electronics and sore fingers, Emma has been a trooper and totally great about sharing her love of stories. You should keep an eye out for her. She’s an up and coming author in her own right. We’re lucky to have her on SSV.

Bookaholic Olga ~ Not only is Olga a writer and a talented woman with interesting views, she is a prolific reader that reminds me to go back and re-read old loves. Books I haven’t thought about for years, I’ve gone in search of to read again because of reviews she’s posted here. She’s a woman with pretty cool accomplishments but you wouldn’t know that from just talking to her because she’s really down to earth.

Contrary Erica ~ Pssst! Erica, we are most likely the most rambunctiously opinionated on SSV. Not counting Mark. We’re the ones to more likely to be brassy in our remarks. I know I am in real life. I am a bit more tactful when I write but sometimes, I’m just blaringly blunt. Sorry to spill the secret. grins We also share a love of reading erotica. I am not alone! Thanks for sharing your writing, thoughts and awesomely bright self here on SSV.

Marathon Mark ~ Mark is the ONLY male on SSV staff. The only one! There are lots of male readers and writers out there but only one to join SSV’s dark forces. He has a way of spinning his views and thoughts in a way that makes really cool images in my mind. Usually, I love it. Sometimes, I wish it wasn’t that vivid. Some things just shouldn’t be visualized. You would think that I would know that lesson well by now. I’ve lived long enough! I love reading his reviews. Intentionally or not, I end up grinning or laughing a lot when I read Mark’s posts.

Thank you! Thank you for being amazing individuals with varied talents, a love of books & writing, and being a part of what makes Silk Screen Views a great blog. I love ya’ll! Bunches and bunches!

If you would like to get to know the crew better, check out Silhouette to get a look at SSV and look up our rowdy bunch by looking at SSV Reviewers and Guest Reviewers pages. Curious about Silk Screen Views? Check out the Nexus and explore!

We’re All Infected: On Horror and Dark Fiction

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

China Mieville is perhaps the coolest cat to ever write a sentence, and his goal is to write a novel in every genre. Not sure if this means horror is on the way, or if he has counted one of his many novels which already include plenty of horror.

Horror appears in so many great pieces of literature, yet it still seems that calling a novel a piece of horror cheapens it in some reader’s eyes. The more I swim in writer’s circles, I’m discovering some writers embrace the term Horror writer, some prefer ‘dark fiction’, and others coin their own terms. All of this with the hope that their work is properly understood. Well, whatever the term, it is my belief that horror provides perhaps the most powerful, visceral, and deeply moving ways to experience art. Not only that, but the darkest of horror writers have the finest hearts around.

Yes, in Horror, people are threatened. People get hurt. People are killed. There’s evil. There’s blood. You feel threatened by dark forces. Well, I would argue that something gets cut open in any novel, each story has something that bleeds (even if it’s just Holden Caulfield’s innocence, for example), and the hinge upon which all fiction swings is escalating conflict and the fear that the protagonist won’t get what they want.

Fiction is the drama of life with the heat turned up, and when done right, it boils out the insides of characters and reveals who they are, and better yet, transforms them into something stronger, like metal into fire. Or perhaps when the novel ends in tragedy, they aren’t strong enough to handle the flames. Horror does this wonderfully.

In this way, I think of horror as much as a literary device as a genre.  The term horror is just a marketing tool. Put a different cover on the novel American Psycho, and it would no longer be read as an illustration of our society of privilege, financial cannibalism and materialism gone mad. Instead, it’d be slasher and torture porn.

Let me set the premise for an epic horror story. One which will be the tome upon which civilizations are built, wars are fought, children are baptized, and bodies are buried:

Imagine a story where the dead are raised, where babies are slaughtered, where plagues destroy cities, and where the main character has spiritual powers but is shunned and eventually betrayed. Until the day comes when he has to carry the device of his own torture. A crown of thorns bloodies his head, his flesh is punctured by nails, and his body hangs until he dies. But wait, it’s not over, because then his very soul will have to harrow hell for 3 days, gathering the ravaged souls of those before him, and he finally ascends to a higher plane.

To commemorate this event, we all kneel in front of the same ancient torture device. Then we perform a cannibalistic ritual to honor his sacrifice in Holy Communion as solemn music plays in the background.

Yep, you got it (don’t throw stones, please) put a different cover on it, and you can market the Bible as horror.

The iconic horror writer Stephen King rewrote this story, only it was much more tame, and it starred Jon Coffee instead of Jesus Christ. Both spiritual, superior beings put to death–just texts written at different times. Scour great horror and dark fiction, you’ll find great literature.

What makes Stephen King shine is his characters, not just the horror, and when his work is at its best, the macabre highlights the internal strife of the character. Horror works best when it is a metaphor for the dark places the character is already traveling through. It isn’t easy to draw a picture of our dark psychological recesses, so you pull the insides out, put different faces on them, and give them a name. Like It, or Cujo.

The story of Cujo serves as a model for me. The huge, killer rabid St. Bernard who has trapped a woman and her young child in the tiny pinto of a car. But it’s not about a dog; it’s about alienation, isolation.

I am alone, everybody has abandoned me, and here I am suffocating in this car, alone, trapped, with the jaws of the world trying to kill my most precious child.

This is why I think horror writers have the finest hearts around. The only way a writer can scare you is to first prove they understand you. A writer must first be ultra-sensitive to the human predicament, and show they can get into the hearts and heads of humans. Otherwise, it all falls flat. I would love my daughter to marry a man with the heart of a Stephen King.

To take a step further, it is by destroying your protagonists, after giving him hopes and dreams and struggles, that can make you fully empathize with him. None of our physical lives come to happy endings. No one here gets out alive.

Of course, there are works that exist simply for sake of a bombardment of the senses. This still takes art, I would argue, even if it is horror just for horror sake. I love the Evil Dead, but I’m not going to say it has the same psychological layers, but it is incredible campfire storytelling.

Horror is seeing resurgence in TV, and not just because it scares us, but because it helps us relate. In Season one of American Horror Story, the real horror was dealing with infidelity, trust, perpetual anger and all the shattered lives caused by the ripples of hurt. The horror of all this inner-psyche drama sticks around like ghosts in your basement in a house you can never leave. You can’t just kill the past, you have to deal with it. Otherwise, the ghosts in your basement remain. They haunt your psychological dark spots, always ready to fragment your spirit, destroy your dreams and, yes, hurt your children.

Horror works best when you are watching it and realize, “Hey, that’s me; I’m living a life of fear. A life of quiet desperation–screaming in terror on the inside yet quiet on the outside”. Horror reminds us that: We are all infected. Yes, the secret of season 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead, that we are all infected  is what makes horror as a genre thrive.

We are all infected with this human experience. It’s a virus that lasts approximately 70 years, give or take a few decades, and during that time we look for meaning. And when done right, horror offers us a great peek into this unique affliction, but if not, it at least gives us some riveting drama to enjoy and makes our predicament a little more tolerable. At least for a few hundred pages or more.

0–oo–o

 Mark Matthews is the author of STRAY and The Jade Rabbit. His third novel, ‘On the Lips of Children’, is a piece of dark fiction, horror,  nihilistic inspirational absurdity, and any other label that fits. It is coming soon from Books of the Dead Press.

He blogs at Running, Writing, and Chasing the Dragon.

Gone Girl ~ Gillian Flynn

  • Title: Gone Girl 
  • Author: Gillian Flynn
  • Genre: Fiction/Dark Fiction
  • Source: Kindle
  • Reviewed by: Mark, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around

Review:  A book most if not all have heard of, but I never miss a chance to talk about it, so I am going to spout off on it now. This is one of the coolest novels I have ever read, or perhaps will ever read. The kind that makes you wonder how the author can walk about normal society with these kind of disturbed thoughts in her head.

Why did I love it? Such a unique and wonderful use of untrustworthy narrators. Nothing cooler than ending a chapter where a character talks to the police with the line, “and that was my fifth lie?” Huh? Well, which five were the lies?

But this is only the beginning. You’re in for a roller coaster that works on so many levels. The murder mystery by itself would make it enough, but the novel speaks to marriage and relationships’ tendencies to cling to the sickest parts of each other. The toxic ties that bind and keep us together and the resulting resentments we share like an unwanted spawn. I’m reminded of a lesser known novel, Mr. Peanut, and the phrase “Marriage is one long double homicide.”

The novel addresses the way we experience all of our existence either through the media, or by referencing back to a movie version of our reality, and if you look closer, you’ll see enough Oedipal references to write your thesis.

Real word horror. I couldn’t sleep, I kept hearing the words, “Play nice Nick.”

I’ve loved many novels where I understood why other folks don’t love them, but not this one. To me, this is an easy across the board recommendation to any reader as a must read. (of course, looking at the reviews for those fighting to be Kings and Queens of the contrarians, you’ll see otherwise.)

Six out of Five Stars, and I have set out a treasure hunt for Gillian Flynn to follow, the last clue is her meeting me at Starbucks for coffee, or she can just visit my blog and autograph (comment on) my post.

~Mark is the author of Stray and The Jade Rabbit and blogs at Running, Writing, and Chasing the Dragon

Game of Thrones Starts, Walking Dead Ends, and How They Die Matters

I love and thrive off of endurance events. Long mileage. But all mileage isn’t equal, all 20 mile runs aren’t the same, and all 1,216 page books aren’t as heavy.  I just finished Storm of Swords, or as I think of it, Game of Thrones part 3, and it was 1,216 pages. Longest book I’ve read,  I think, surpassing The Historian which is a high-brow, artsy Dracula story I read entirely on the toilet.  But I carried this recent book with me wherever I went.  I read it in three time zones, three countries (USA, Mexico, Jamaica) and inside of four airports (Flint, Detroit, Atlanta, Houston) but all of it was in a state of wonder and intrigue.

I’m trying to keep up with the HBO series, and I stick to the adage, ‘book before movie’.

I’ve had my share of dungeon and dragons 20 sided dice in my hand, so I let my Geek flag fly. This series is full of high drama. It’s been called Sopranos meets Lord of the Rings.  Every human trait across the spectrum is magnified. Treachery and beguile, bravery and honor.  The characters are rich and divinely human.  The story doesn’t read as much as fantasy as it does detailed, historical fiction.

Characters die. Characters you think will never die, well, they die. Characters you hate so much you want them to live. Well, they die. Characters you love and hope their good fortune will be evidence of a higher and beneficent God. Well, they die too.

 But after the first major death in the first book, what I have realized is, their deaths make their lives stronger. The way they died, and at whose hands, ripples through the 7 kingdoms showing the extent of their influence.  In fact, when King Eddard died, I have likened it to God being killed, since he is the most moral and steadfast of all, and the rest of the books are simply the lesser humans running around and bumping into each other trying to make their way in a Godless world.

So, I will be watching closely at the Season 3 opener. I can’t tell if the HBO series is even worth watching without having read the books because I think of it more as a companion to the novels rather than it’s own entity.

When I get to choose my magic super power, or if I rub a lamp and a Genie comes out with just one wish, it may be to bring a literary character to life, and I will be choosing Daenerys Targaryen, mother of Dragons. 

And I want my daughter to act like Arya and marry a man like Jon Snow (she already tells me “you know nothing, daddy” so it’s a perfect match.)

 The Walking Dead Season Finale

On the same night Game of Thrones begins, there’s the season finale of The Walking Dead.  Another high drama, more pop-culture but deliciously packaged series.  Like Game of Thrones, people die. Yes, they have important people die.  Their deaths are felt long after they are gone, Sophia and Shane, for example.  And how they die, and at whose hands, is as significant as how they lived.

This is perhaps most evident when Darryl Dixon, bad-ass Darryl with the sweetest of hearts, has to off his brother in a memorable list of fratricides with Cain and Able at the top.

And here’s where I get artsy.

Notice that Darryl doesn’t use an arrow? Anybody else think this isn’t significant? Darryl shoots everything with his crossbow. An army of Zombies have died with his arrows.  But not his brother Merle.  First Darryl kicks him, then he pushes him, angry at him for becoming a zombie, and saddened with the burden of having to put his brother down. Then he chokes him, and you get the feeling he’s reliving all the abuse he’s had at his brothers hands, only this time he’s the one overpowering his tormentor.

Finally he knives him… a final cathartic release of his rage. His beloved brother has turned, and now he can definitely never feel the closeness he had hoped for. Angry at his brother for being an ass, angry at wanting to be close to him, as if Merle were the surrogate father.

There’s no way an arrow to Merle’s head would have let Darryl have had this cathartic experience.

One last note. If I’m Michonne, I’m taking my sword and swinging it through Rick’s neck, I don’t care if he changed his mind.

 Important people die, but how they die, and at whose hands, says as much about them as how they lived.

o=o=o=o

Mark Matthews is the author of STRAY and The Jade Rabbit. You can find out more about Mark and his work on his website: Running, Writing, and Chasing the Dragon.