The fact that this book club covers three different genres each month often requires me to do a bit of research in order to come up with quality selections, especially when it comes to the horror category. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of worthy books out there, only that I’m not as familiar with the genre as I am with SF and Fantasy. To help in the selection process, I usually consult a number of online sites for worthy candidates. And so it was I came across Stephen Dobyns’ The Church of Dead Girls while perusing a website dedicated to the best in genre fiction. Although it was the macabre title that caught my eye, the positive reviews were what sealed the deal. And, in sitting down to read The Church of the Dead Girls, I quickly discovered that the luridness of the title actually belies a book that it is surprisingly literate.
When a young girl goes missing in a small town, the community is horrified. A search is organized, an investigation launched, but when they fail to yield palpable results, suspicion is cast, first on strangers and newcomers, and then inward as the tiny community faces the prospect that the guilty party may be one of them.
The focus here is less on visceral horror and more on the collective mindset of a community pushed to the very edge by paranoia and a frenzied search for answers. Dobyns does a terrific job of establishing the neighborhood, its inhabitants, and the quaint, small town mentality that quickly devolves in the face of mounting fear and frustration. Troubled by the local authorities’ inability to solve the crime and protect their children, certain townspeople take matters into their own hands. Friendships are strained, the community fractures, and a support group formed to help in the search for the missing girls becomes a roaming mob that corners frightened suspects and bullies their way in to private homes. There’s a particularly unsettling scene in which the mob, tipped off by a supposed psychic, shows up on a resident’s doorstep demanding to search his home. His initial stalwart resistance quickly dissipates when he realizes that his reluctance to cooperate makes him even more suspicious and, before long, he is encouraging the local sheriff to come in and run lab tests on the premises. Individuals are targeted, neighbors turn on each other, and it’s all deeply fascinating to follow because the characters and their responses to the horrifying developments feel very, very real.
The story is told from the perspective of a town resident, a single, male high school teacher who, over the course of the novel, also falls under suspicion. On the one hand, the first person narrative allows for a familiarity that immediately connects us to community, its history, and various players. On the other hand, I found that the first person account became a bit of a distraction when the story shifted to events that took place outside of the narrator’s experience. Of course we are told that someone present inevitably filled him in on what transpired, allowing him to retell the tale, but often the description is so specific in terms of thoughts and action that it defies credibility.
That was my only major bump and, after a while, I came to accept the convention. Still, it directly relates to my only minor bump which comes at novel’s end with the reveal of the guilty party and subsequent wrap-up. Since it’s a first-person account, we are never offered a glimpse into the abductor’s thought processes. What was he thinking? How did he justify his actions in his mind? We are offered hints through dialogue yet nothing in the way of true insight and this is somewhat unsatisfying given the depth of the other characters.
Overall however, I found The Church of Dead Girls to be an incredibly absorbing read. I read the first 100 pages the first day, then stayed up into the wee hours of the next morning to finish the last 300+ pages. Smart, creepy, and engrossing.
Well, those were my initial thoughts. What did everyone else think?
I’m afraid I’m going to have to hold off on questions for author Stephen Dobyns as I’ve been unable to get in touch with him since our preliminary discussion about his guest blog here. I suspect he is either incommunicado or, more likely, a loyal McKay-Teyla shipper incredibly ticked off by the events of The Shrine.
In the meantime, I’ve heard back from both Lexa Doig and Sharon Taylor. Their guests Q&A segments will appear in the coming days. I’ve sent your questions for our prop master, Evil Kenny Gibbs, his way. Over the new couple of days, I’d like to gather questions for director Andy Mikita who has taken time out of his busy schedule to dialogue with you. So if you have any questions for Andy, let’s see ’em!
Today’s video: Take a stroll through the production office!
NaniWahine writes: “1) In light of the cancellation *swallows a sob*, was the season/series finale (Enemy at the Gate) re-written to tie up some loose ends and give us a closure? Or was it written in anticipation of the possible end, and therefore will remain as originally written?
2) Are Carson, Lorne and Zelenka expected to make an appearance in the SGA film?”
Answers: 1) Episode 20 will remain as originally scripted. 2) Too early to tell.
Shadow Step writes: “On a different note, could you explain why David Nykl gets a credit for a 3 second walk past?”
Answer: Sure. Because his scene was cut for time.
AnneTeldy writes: “Other than a quick backstory of Michael, is there anything else I should explain to the unwashed heathens few who don’t watch the series?”
Answer: Nope. They’re pretty much good to go.
Loren writes: “The Fantasy Book of the Month Club Selection – do you do this yourself, and post the book on your blog, or is it a separate site that we can join up at?”
Answer: Hi, Loren. All you need to do is consult the Book of the Month Club information on the right sidebar. It will list upcoming books and the dates on which we will begin discussion. On that day, I will post my thoughts and then everyone else is free to weigh in as well. If the author is an announced guest blogger, feel free to leave questions for him/her.
Chelle DeBoer writes: “Can you recall all your teachers from primary and secondary school??”
Answer: Mrs. Ballard, Mrs. Vowels, Mrs. Kuteh, Mrs. Graham (who used to tap dance on desks every Friday afternoon), Mr. Dubruille, and Mrs. Chartrand.
Montybird writes: “To follow up on Sandy’s question regarding whether or not the cast could do more of the commentaries on the Season 5 DVD set, could you persuade Joe F. to let Ivan Bartok do a featurette on him???”
Answer: Hmmm. Ivon has a special feature surprise in store for you in the season 5 box set.
Majorsal writes: “is sam in ‘enemy at the gate’?”
Answer: She is.
Tamijb writes: “I saw The Shrine for the second time today. Although I know you didn’t write it maybe you can ask my question? In the scene where the team is on top of the stargate they show the parasite floating on the water. I didn’t realize till later because I didn’t know what it looked like. Was that intentional? Was that forshadowing? Did anyone else catch it?”
Answer: That wasn’t the parasite. That was a piece of floating gunk. Sorry.
Dezrai writes: “Okay, gotta point out some…inconsistencies which you, the other producers, MGm and SCI FI are spouting. You all keep saying that you just found out about SGA being canceled and it wasn’t canceled to make room for Stargate Voyager?? This says different. It is from an article by SyFyPortal:
“Brad Wright did tell us in April that he personally did not want to go back to doing two shows simultaneously again,” Sumner said. “They did ‘SG-1′ and ‘Atlantis’ simultaneously for three years. That’s 40 hours of television each year, and he wasn’t eager to going back to that knowing that [MGM] wanted to do more movies for ‘SG-1.’ Either ‘Universe’ would have to wait until ‘Atlantis’ was done, or ‘Atlantis’ would have to be done right now.” We really can’t trust any of you, can we?”
Answer: I see. So based on Brad’s stated preference in April, you assume that the show was canceled three months before the season premiere even aired and all of the producers knew about it and have been quietly sitting on the news ever since? With all due respect (and I mean that in the not nicest way possible), that is one of the most offensively stupid displays of connect-the-dots reasoning I’ve come across in quite some time. For the record, Paul, Carl, Martin, Alan, and I held out hope for a sixth season pick-up until the final announcement – which came LAST WEEK. To suggest we’ve deceived its fans or the people we’ve worked with all these years is beyond obnoxious.
JAG writes: “Not much talk has been issued about Teyla in any episode after the Queen. Can we expect to see her in episodes after, or do many Teyla fans have some hearbreak in store for them?”