Read Sheep by Simon Maginn Free Online
Book Title: Sheep|
The author of the book: Simon Maginn
Date of issue: October 1st 1996
ISBN 13: 9781565049109
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 329 KB
Edition: White Wolf Games Studio
Read full description of the books Sheep:I don't usually even look at horror novels so why even chose this particular obscure little book, you may ask, to dip into the genre?
Well, way back in the early 2000's I used to go to the cinema from time to time with a friend who really, really likes Sean Bean. Around 2006 Sean Bean happened to star in a couple of horror films which we then naturally had to watch, one of which I was actually interested in (which was Silent Hill, an okay movie, with really nice monster designs), and one I was not, the latter of which was called The Dark, which was considerably more boring and confused the hell out of me (turned out our cinema was showing an alternate ending to what was shown in the original US release, huh), but is the one relevant to this story.
Because that movie was inspired by a book. Sheep is that book.
Why read that book if you didn't even like the movie that much? you might further ask.
Well, I liked the atmosphere, and the two people in the world who appeared to had read the book at the time claimed the story of the book was vastly different, actually made sense, but had the same bleak, Welsh setting and some similar themes.
Now in the days of Kindles and Nook and Tolino the novel has been re-released as an ebook, and it was really cheap on amazon a couple of weeks back, and I needed a "one word title" book for reading bingo, so I thought, why the hell not?
Yes, why the hell not? Having read it now, I have to say it didn't wow me. It's decent, but also certainly not something you regret reading. Like the film it's not a gory slasher. Death is sparse, as is violence and all the gross proceedings are restricted to dead animals (there's a tapeworm being extracted from a sheep's head, a fly inserting its eggs into someone's dinner meat, and sheep's carcasses missing a leg or two). It's not the gore, it's the stark realism of the ideas and descriptions that gets to you.
Obligatory pre-emptive spoiler for pet owners and readers who prefer not to read books with violence directed at dogs: (view spoiler)[A character recalls mutilating and dismembering the family dog while the animal's still alive. The scene isn't particularly explicit but it's clear that the dog is terrified and in pain. (hide spoiler)]
However there is a supernatural element to the horror. It's strongly hinted there is some form of telepathy and communication with the dead going on (which for a moment makes you wonder whether the actions of the person behind the horrific goings on might actually bear fruit in this setting, and whether there is some supernatural evil lurking in the barn). Also, characters, one of which is a builder paid to do restauration work on the house (!), at first ignoring that a room that cannot be opened from the inside is in the house they're having to stay in and are supposed to restore, and then never thinking of installing a door handle or at least removing the dead bolts from the other side of the door HAVE to be influenced in their behaviour by something supernatural. No one could be that stupid!
So yeah, I guess my biggest problem were the characters. They aren't flat, but there is some stereotyping to them and each individually managed to do or think or say something that kept me from really feeling for them. Especially Adèle with her quirks and her constant daydreaming about cheating on her partner with the sexy naive farmer from next door tended to get on my nerves quite a bit ((view spoiler)[later James considers cheating on her with the same farmer, after she has been institutionalised! It didn't endear him to me but the idea is kind of cathartic and hilarious in a way. That poor farmer was the only attractive man for miles! (hide spoiler)]). But, yeah, all in all the characters were fairly well developed and moderately interesting (Lewyn more so than the others).
But when I say the characters aren't flat, there's the one exception of the young, pretty female character introduced in the last fifth (!) of the book, who is rather flat, and who of course only exists to die. The moment she entered the narration you knew she was a goner, which only served to annoy me, rather than create tension and fear or even an investment in her survival, or rather death. Because her death was so predictable I don't feel like mention it should be considered a spoiler. Again, I don't read horror novels, yet it was still bloody obvious what her role was from the beginning. She was an attractive young female baby sitter in a horror novel, for crying out loud!
Luckily the rest of the book is rather more subtle and less ham-fisted. The only other parts of the book that feel rather too on the nose are the bits in which the narration jumps into the head of a character who has died long before the plot of the novel even sets in. That alone wouldn't be so bad, but these parts confirm rather explicitly (and rather early in the novel) what the reader could have guessed anyway (view spoiler)[that Raoul murdered his daughters, that the bones in the fields are children's bones and Edith didn't simply go mad (hide spoiler)]. There was simply no need for them since the characters themselves find out about all of this later and until they do the reader's imagination, already correctly suspecting what had transpired, would have created a sense of horror much more effectively than being told what had happened explicitly through these flashbacks (because, really, it's not that unambiguous form the start that the reader would have needed more help to figure it out. As long as the reader remembers he's reading a horror novel. Small bones that the characters have to tell themselves repeatedly to be bones of sheep just to stay sane are NEVER actually bones of sheep).
Also, at first I was a bit annoyed by the nature of the ending. But thinking about it again, we do get closure for the principal characters. It's a bit vague, because the writing style slips back into it's most metaphsyical and lyrical form for the last couple of scenes, but the ending truly is an ending, and it's not hard to deduce what is going to happen to the survivors of the tale.
Finally, the writing itself is decent as well. It's a bit of a style mix there is some purply prose but also some really good, straightforward phrases that exhibit a startling clarity that I found I enjoyed immensely. There are cusswords, a lot of colloquialisms, but at the same time the book is richtly saturated with metaphors. And what kind of metaphors! They're visceral, clinical, cold, and serve to excellently create an uncomfortable, foreboding atmosphere even long, long before the actual plot starts escalating. A lot of descriptions and small scenes in the beginning of the novel center around images of corrption, working subtly to support the uncomfortable atmosphere and guiding the reader's thoughts to better pick up the nature of the horror encountered later in the book.
Sheep is an entertaining, mostly enjoyable read. It works it's particular kind of horror rather well. It's just not an outstandig read.
Read information about the authorI am a novelist living and working in Brighton, UK, in a haunted palace by the sea. I write horror/psychological thrillers as Simon Maginn: Sheep (filmed as The Dark), is available as an ebook now. Other titles include Virgins and Martyrs, A Sickness of the Soul, Methods of Confinement, and Rattus (novella).
By night, I become Simon Nolan, who writes satirical, drug-fuelled comedies: As Good as it Gets, The Vending Machine of Justice, Whitehawk.
I play the piano incessantly, and I paint in an uncontrolled and, frankly, disgusting way. I'd love it if you visited my website, www.simonmaginn.com, but please don't feel you have to. I know you're busy.
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