Monday, October 15, 2018

Red Rain (R. L. Stine)

Red Rain by R.L. Stine
When I was in elementary school, I was sent to the principal’s office once. My parents were called as well. They came in and sat down with me, and the principal (who by the way didn’t believe this was happening) reintroduced them to my first grade teacher, who then proceeded to tell them why they were there:
I was reading something “too mature” for me. My parents stared at her.
“What do you mean? How  mature?” my mother (an English teacher, by the way) asked her, warily.
“Well, I don’t want to alarm you, but… it’s Goosebumps. I caught her with three different books from that series.”
Crickets. I’m not kidding people, absolute crickets. My dad finally folds his fingers together on the desk, “Where do you think she got the books? Is she also running a job on the side to afford them?”
This time, crickets from the teacher. The principal is smirking, because to him this is ridiculous.
To anyone sane, this is ridiculous. I was seven. Wasn’t Goosebumps meant for children?

That wasn’t even the last time that happened. (In third grade it was And Then There Were None. I actually got in double trouble that time because when I got in trouble, I pointed out that I was not reading the copy called Ten Little N***rs. I was trying to point out that I was being politically correct. Mrs. Pulis did not approve. Side note: the principal again found the whole thing ridiculous and funny. I miss him.) This time my father was a little more pissed at having his time wasted.
“I’m not sure what you’re concerned about most here? Is it that you worry she will accept an invitation out of the blue from an anonymous stranger inviting her to a sketchy island with a bunch of other strangers? I just need to know what you feel I need to parent her through.”
I was never called to the principal’s office again.

But, I digress. The point of this story was not my elementary school teachers preoccupation with my advanced reading skills, or my ability to separate fantasy from reality (I would not, as it happens, have accepted that invitation.) This story is about the fact that I have loved R.L. Stine since he first hit the market in the 90’s. His story lines were inventive, his plot lines were well thought out, and the twists were creepy enough to stick with me, even to this day in some cases. (Does anyone else remember Bad Dog?? I still feel sad every time I see a stray animal!)

SO. When I found out that Stine was now also writing books for adults, the exact words that came out of my mouth were “nipvsidvhnikahiehifchniledhnived;JVDHO;RSNIljifhnikwhndihniv.” (That’s verbatim.)

The story starts with a woman witnessing first hand the horrors of post hurricane devastation on an island of the Outer Banks. As blood red rain begins to fall from the sky, she notices two little boys- twins (always creepy)- walking out of the gloom towards her alone.

Cut to a few days prior and we see her learn the bizarre history of the island, where the living are said to coexist with the dead. (The island is fictional, in case you were wondering.)

Apparently, years before, another hurricane had completely decimated the island, nothing was left standing, and very few were left alive.  However, the island was rebuilt in a short amount of time because the dead rose up to help the living rebuild. Afterwards, they enjoyed living again so much, they decided to stay. The island is full of weird stories and creepy resurrection rituals, giving the main character the heebie jeebies as she documents for her travel blog.

After the hurricane and the red rain she takes home the twin boys- whom she apparently felt motherly love for at first sight- to help them learn to live again after losing their home and parents.

Then shit starts getting weird.

You’d think shit got weird in the chapter with the resurrection from the dead ceremony, but no, by the end of this book that will feel like a goddamned Goosebumps novel again. And the weirdness. Is. AWESOME!

Just like I remembered, the story telling is virtually flawless. The red herrings he throws you are believable enough for you to bite, but the reality is way better. I did NOT see the final twist coming. Like, at all. I honestly cannot even say enough good things about this book.

The character development was also stellar, which I think can often be lacking in horror books where the tendency can be to put so much time into the ambiance and not as much into the people living it. But I actually felt for the characters. (Except the teenagers because I don’t particularly feel for teenagers in general.) Side characters were given some back story, but not so much that the plot suffered or the pacing.

Overall, I recommend this book to ANYONE who is not afraid of a scary read. It was that good. Hands down, my favorite horror read this year.

The Final Breakdown: (hint- it’s 5’s all around.)

The Book
This was a great twist on your classic Children of the Damned and Village of the Damned tropes, which Stine admits were a huge influence on him. Honestly, what’s creepier than children, am I right?

The Writing
As with everything of his I read when I was growing up, the writing is fantastic. I was drawn in from the first page, and pissed that the last page was the last.

I read this book in about twenty-four hours once I actually concentrated on it (as in, finished the other book I was reading at the same time.)


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