I feel like perhaps the first thing I should do is provide one GIANT spoiler alert for this post. I always try not to give away too many spoilers, but I’ve found over time that this gets next to impossible with short stories. So consider yourself warned!
I feel like I’m just plowing away on the short stories for Carl’s R.I.P Challenge and Future-Mr. Book Maven’s recent obsession with Call of Duty: Black Ops has given me the perfect opportunity to read two greats from a legend of horror – Mr. Edgar Allan Poe himself.
Both “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” are considered to be classic example of Poe’s ice-cold and bone chilling horror writing. The former tells of a lavish masque party gone awry while being held in a sequestered monastery during a plague called the Red Death; the latter the tale of man convicted during the Inquisition and subjected to one of the most horrifying (to me) deaths imaginable. Both are great examples of a challenging short story that will scare the piss out of you if allowed to take hold.
I have to say that while I personally find “The Pit and the Pendulum” to be the scarier of the two stories, I think that “Masque of the Red Death” is far more beautiful to read. To begin with, I find the description of the lighting – different colored rooms lit only by back lit windows – to be appealing both to the color freak as well as the creepiness lover within me. Second, just the general setting of a lavish, un-class conscious ball held during so much decay and death is just hilarious in a kind of sick way. If there is one issue I have issue with, it’s the ending. I mean, come on Poe? A ghost? Really? I would have enjoyed it much more, I think, had the man in the mask been, I don’t know, a zombie or recently infected party goer (somehow). It was scary, but it wasn’t terrifying. Unlike…
“The Pit and the Pendulum” scared the shit out of me. Seriously. I have often thought that being buried alive would be an absolutely horrible way to die. Add to that the panic I feel when I contemplate what it would be like to slowly watch my inevitable death approaching..damn. Well done, Mr. Poe. I’m not sure what else there is to say! I believe that the horror of a good horror story lies in the environment and surroundings, and no one does that better than Poe. The descriptions of everything from the slimy pit walls to the starving, red-eyed rats was terrifying. Of the two, if you’re only going to read one, I’d definitely have to say go with “The Pit and the Pendulum”!
In other reading news, I’m making decent headway on China Mieville’s The Kraken, although I usually find myself making the ” what the fuck is happening” face more often than not (people who have already read it – this is normal, right?!) but I’m enjoying it regardless! I’m also just starting to dabble in some H.P. Lovecraft short stories, and I’m thinking of picking up Daphne DuMarier’s Rebecca for the Labor Day weekend. We’ll just have to see though! No matter what you’ve got on the front and back burners, I wish you happy reading!