I find it strange how there are some of Terry Pratchett’s books that tend to get forgotten. Maybe people have come to blend him and the Discworld so much that his books outside that series don’t get the same recognition? Or maybe they just aren’t aware of them? But, as a whole, I believe his children’s books don’t get the recognition they deserve.
The Johnny Maxwell books are examples of these. Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993) and Johnny and the Bomb (1996) tell three separate stories about Johnny Maxwell, a boy who seems to have a ability to see through the world into something more; whether it be entering a computer game while he sleeps to save the aliens from the players, speaking with the ghosts of the dead to save their graveyard from destruction, or travelling back in time to the Second World War.
I’ve always felt that Pratchett had a real knack for children’s books. He was able to take the ideas and themes found in all his work and streamline them for a younger audience. Rereading them now I find it a little odd and oversimplified, which is maybe why they are overlooked, but as a child I remember them being incredibly real. They felt like adult books to me. I was already reading the Discworld novels at this point, but I know now that a lot of the details went over my head.
I prefer the Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings) (a separate series, but there are enough connections to assume these two series are in the same universe) but I’ll always have a soft spot for the Johnny Maxwell books. If you’re a fan of Pratchett but not given these ones a go, I highly recommend it.
For the record, Johnny and the Bomb is my favourite.
One final point: having been introduced to these book through the audio book versions I cannot read them without hearing the words in Tony Robinson’s voice. I don’t get that with the Discworld books. There’s just something about these three that sticks in his voice. Weird how that happens.
With just 8 days left on the Halloween Countdown, I bring you another short from the annoyingly talented David F. Sandberg; Attic Panic.
Sandberg’s work just stands out for me of all the short films I’m seeing. He has a pitch-perfect sense of exactly where sound and effects need to be placed to create an atmospheric haunt. He doesn’t fall for the all too common trap of believing music cues can replace craftsmanship, or using generic horror imagery. (It’s amazing how many people still think a girl with long tangle hair hanging in front of her face is scary). He simply comes up with a simple idea and puts together a quick, slick, eerie film.
I mean, he actually manages to make the traditional person-with-a-sheet-over-their-head ghost costume genuinely creepy.
My only issue with this film is that the setting doesn’t look anything like an attic to me. But that’s not enough to put me off. It might well be his attic. Maybe attics in Sweden have cages. Who am I to judge?
We have 9 days left in our Halloween Countdown, and as it’s a Sunday and we all hopefully have a little more free time today I thought I’d suggest something a little longer; Vicious by Oliver Park.
There’s so much going on in these 13 minutes, but without any superfluous padding or spelling out of the story. A girl comes home one night to find her front door open. After a search of the house turns up nothing she settles down to sleep, only to be woken first by nightmares, and then something more.
I was surprised by this one. I usually find that the ideal length of short horror films is between 3 and 6 minutes or so. Once they go over that length they tend to lose the tension. Either the core idea gets flabby and the audience loses interest, or it just feels like there is too much going on and they need more time to set every up.
A lot of this goes to Rachel Winters, who manages to pull off the exact balance of terror and proactivity needed to keep us. Another cardinal sin I’ve noticed over and over again researching this list is characters acting scared because they are supposed to, but when there is no reason for them to. (Note to directors, a call coming in with a blocked number at night isn’t scary in itself. Stop thinking it is). Here, the protagonist acts far more like someone might actually react in the situation, rather than acting scared because the film requires it.
So make yourself a cup of tea, turn out the lights and give it a watch.
Do you like reading?
Do you like horror?
Do you like free stuff?
Are you looking forward to Halloween?
Well, I might just be able to help you there. AuthorsWriteInc.com are hosting the Ultimate Horror Book & Prize Giveaway! The grand prize winner – to be announced on Halloween – will receive 5 horror classics bundled with their matching Funko Pop figures.
And they and one other runner-up will also win over 25 horror ebooks from horror authors all over the world, which might just include a copy of something by little old me.