Here is a shocking statement from someone who works in a library: reading lists are fun to keep. In addition to helping you remember exactly what you have read over time, they also produce a great sense of accomplishment. You can sit back in your chair, preferably an electric reclining one, and contemplate the many things you have read. If you have a tendency toward over analyzing what you have read, however, there can be a problem. While perusing my reading list, I recently noticed that the last three titles on my list were rather disturbing. How disturbing you ask? Let’s take a look.
The Wilds by Julia Elliott
While Julia Elliott’s collection of short stories do not share an interconnected plot, they do share a distinctly creepy tone and feel. Most are set in a world just slightly in the future where an element of today is distorted and heightened for a disturbing effect. The story ‘Regeneration at Mukti’ is set in a new age clinic in the jungles of South America where the wealthy literally shed their skin to try to look younger. In ‘The Love Machine’ a synthetic artificial intelligence is flooded with hormones with disastrous results. ‘Organisms’ describes the T. hermeticus epidemic which zombifies adolescents and is spread through social media and video games. ‘Feral’ is set in a world where domestic dogs have reverted to the wild, roaming in large packs and threatening their former human masters. All the stories reflect Elliot’s masterful use of language and her ability to evoke a distinctive setting and feeling of growing unease.
Find Me by Laura Van den Berg
In this novel, Joy finds herself in an isolated hospital on the Kansas plains during the middle of winter. While her life before was mundane, working the graveyard shift at a convenience store and stealing cough syrup to numb the pain, she now finds herself in a unique position: one of the few people immune to a new sickness that begins with memory loss and ends in death. She and her fellow residents are subject to odd treatments and strange rules that make her question the medical staff and their motivations. When order breaks down, Joy finds the chance to escape and finds out for herself exactly what is going on in the wider world. While the dystopian setting might seem a bit too familiar, this novel is more about Joy and her relationships with her fellow patients, her long-lost mother, and her past. Van den Berg has a way of creating memorable, quirky, and disturbing characters, which are in great abundance as Joy makes her way through a damaged world.
All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld
Jake Whyte lives in a small cottage on a rainy island off the British coast. Her only companions are a flock of sheep and her dog, simply named Dog. There are a few locals down at the pub and an odd man in a rumpled suit that shows up at her house one day, but for the most part she keeps herself to herself. The only problem is that someone or something is killing her sheep one by one in the night. As she tries to find out who or what the culprit is, traumatic and harrowing memories of her former life in Australia come flooding back. The past and present begin to merge. The line between what is real and what isn’t becomes harder to determine as she gets closer to finding out what exactly is killing her sheep in the night. Wyld is a master of vivid storytelling and doesn’t waste a word in her descriptions and dialog. She creates a truly a gripping story, but not one for the faint of heart.
So, if I’ve been reading disturbing books, does that mean I’m disturbed? Perhaps. But you can rest assured that these three books are well worth your limited reading time, whatever your psychological state.