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Where You Live Paperback – November 28, 2013
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About the Author
Gary McMahon is the acclaimed author of nine novels and several short story collections. His latest novel releases are BEYOND HERE LIES NOTHING (the third in the acclaimed Concrete Grove series, published by Solaris) THE END (an apocalyptic drama published by NewCon Press) and THE BONES OF YOU (a supernatural mystery published by Earthling Publications), and his short fiction has been reprinted in various “Year’s Best” volumes. Gary lives with his family in Yorkshire, where he trains in Shotokan karate and likes running in the rain. Website: www.garymcmahon.com
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Usually when readers praise a writer's imagination they're impressed by the number of whimsical places and creatures he can describe. But it requires a powerful imagination to explore our dread of mortality within the common spaces of modern life--between the office and home, or on a weekend drive in the country--and to make the exploration compelling. McMahon has imagination to spare. He visits seemingly ordinary people just before they encounter or admit something terrible. More often than not, the horror they face corresponds to inner turmoil. Husbands and wives all but wreck one another with love. Fathers are so afraid of failure and vulnerability, they become the monsters their children dream about.
If the settings and characters seem, at first glance, mundane, remember that these are only starting points. The explicit dangers of the actual world, where everyone must die, are woven together with the mysterious and the numinous, often in magnificent patterns.
McMahon clearly aims to get us "where we live," offering familiar guides with nametags askew, to lead us into something horrific. And maybe home again.
In “Just Another Horror Story,” a couple in the middle of a torrid love affair check into a hotel room for a night of debauchery. Little do Terry and Nancy know what actually awaits them. This tale was a great introduction to Mr. McMahon’s work. While I was able to anticipate some of the twists and turns in it I was pleasantly surprised by how often he made me second-guess my predictions about what would happen next.
“Trog Boy Ran” is by far the best story in this collection. Shortly Niles Reedman responds to a recent, painful breakup by stalking his ex-girlfriend and very odd things begin to occur around him. The pacing in this piece is so well done it felt almost cinematic. As disturbing as it was for me to step into the mind of a chilling and extremely dangerous protagonist, I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end of Niles’ adventure.
I desperately wanted to like “The Chair.” In it a boy named Ben battles with despair, loneliness and an undisclosed malaise as his mother struggles with her own mental illness. The introduction caught my attention right away, but I had trouble understanding the symbolism of certain objects in Ben’s life and well as what was happening in the final scene. The sequel to this tale, “The Table,” answers some questions before asking the reader to sort out a brand new batch of them. The concept is alluring, but given the subtlety of what is happening these particular stories may have worked better as a novella.
This pattern repeats itself a few other times in this collection. Every entry includes at least one surprising, frightening, or unexpected element, but some of their horrors are a little difficult to unravel. I found something I really enjoyed about every single tale. That isn’t something that normally occurs for me when I review larger anthologies. Had a little more time been spent planting clues about what was truly happening in the tales that skipped over as much exposition as possible this book would have easily earned a much higher rating.
Save some time to savour the story notes at the end of this novel. Reading them made me feel like I was sitting down with Mr. McMahon to have a personal conversation about where his ideas come from and why he wrote certain characters the way he did. This section is a definite highlight of the novel, but it should be saved until the very end to avoid spoilers.
Where You Live is a solid collection of psychological horror. It’s a good choice for anyone in the mood for a thought-provoking, understated read that becomes more frightening the more one thinks about what they just read.
originally posted at long and short reviews
GM has a beautiful way of writing, so descriptive, some embedded humour that you merely smirk at before he whaps you around the face with a dead fish or two.
My favourite line in the whole book is; baked beans were like angels‟ eggs bursting against his teeth.
Just Another Horror Story: two illicit lovers begin to tell ghost stories post coitus and it’s a gruesome one indeed, then she finds the Horror Stories book, from there it all goes a bit pear shaped. A strange ending but a gripping story.
Barcode: Patrick and Sophie get that dreaded phone call from the bank….they are about to lose their house, just as he sees a ghost? walk past the window. His money worries stem from his failing business and made worse by the need to lay off staff and his latest job gives him more to worry about. Things go from bad to worse as he ends up with a defining dream….. Not sure about this story I was really enjoying it, not something I would do with a ghost story normally but GM kept the pace fast and unrelenting, then it sort of drops of a cliff. I reread the last paragraph in case I missed something, but nope, maybe I just don’t get it.
The Row: the narrator is on Sebastian Street to survey the row of derelict houses that have a history; mutilated bodies, missing children, drug addicts, ghosts and spooks. Soon he begins to get strange feelings, dreams and eventually nightmares about The Row at Sebastian Street. Ghostly houses; different, just not my thing, the ending was definitely spooky though.
When One Door Closes: poor Nick, no job, no chances and Annie has started to read The Guardian! Then doors start to shut on him, whilst quite amusing to start with you wonder if he will be stuck in a lift for the rest of his life; or his he just losing his marbles? GM has a really great way of writing a riveting story but I am finding the endings lacking, almost like he can’t be bothered to finish them. OR I’m just too stupid to get this style of writing/horror story.
The Chair: poor young Ben longing for his Father and having only a drunken Mother to love him, and dish out the pills. Then came The Chair. Despite having the best line of the book in it, this story felt unfinished for me, I wanted more.
Truth Hurts: Cal has cracks in his body and Barbara dreams of orange trees…… just weird! But so wonderful.
Down: an observation between teacher and pupils as they slowly go missing in a dark cave. What is dripping? Where are the cave dwelling critters? Either my coffee just kicked in or these stories are getting weirder! And it’s all brilliant.
Sounds Weird: a really sad look at life in this one, whilst the main character tries to work out what is on the mp3 player the whole world seems to go upside-down. Yup the coffee has definitely kicked in. This book is well laid out with its stories as you feel yourself softly, softly slide down the rabbit hole, and then given a shove by GM.
The Table: Ben arrives home to find a table. As the pieces slowly filter in it becomes clear that this is the Ben with the pills and The Chair – now the story can be finished. What a sad, sad ending.
The Sheep: Bill, Hannah, the wellie boot and the dirty, itchy sheep. GM guides you round a bed in the rabbit warren he has created and this little story drives you to distraction with its accurate relationship observations and then final offering.
Small Things: Sheila is driving in a no man’s land, her daughter is plugged in to the latest game, the radio is playing static, who is following them? Who cares? It’s all down to the Small Things. Oh, a spooky tale – very staccato in its telling making you rush to the end and then wishing you hadn’t.
It Knows Where You Live: another disintegrating relationship type of story with some great observations about a couple who barely know each other anymore, but that doesn’t stop the husband fantasizing about killing her! I’m not sure if GM meant this to be funny but it made me smirk a lot.
Trog Boy Ran: Niles is missing Abby, so he stalks her. Is it the creepy little beard he has? The lack of food? Or is something stalking him! Very strange but entrancing story. As with all GM little stories, I’m not sure I enjoy them, but I am riveted.
I live in the Gut: aaaaaw a tale of love found and a new beginning all wrapped up in gore, tentacles and bone crunching. This was my favourite story.
It Won’t Be Long Now: our story teller is waiting for his audience and chatting with….well, someone. You get the gist of what is occurring as you read, in small spine chilling shudders.
You Haven’t Seen Me: poor Trendle, he is a social outcast, being more damaged by the daily grind and his own terror. When it all comes to a head I do believe he is grateful. Such an emotive tale.
The Groto: a snippet of the non-movie family at the usual boring xmas, slowly things deepen into a pit of despair and The Groto inhabitant is calling. What crawls out is not what you expect. Such an acute look at society today.
Hungry Love: a tale of all consuming love, literally. What is Terry hiding and what does Stan find so wonderfully fluffy! There is a definite erotic edge to this story and some more of that smirk value.
Alice, Hanging Out at the Skate Park: this is split into a few parts so you are taken on a journey by GM. The ending is strange but warranted in an odd way.
At the end of the book GM talks his way through each story, I would have preferred him to do this at the end or beginning of each one to get the full feeling.
This is not something I would normally read and GM is a new author to me, a little strange and wacky for my tastes but the man certainly has a talent.