I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling andM.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.
This week I'm reviewing The Stranger, by Albert Camus.
The only way I can figure this ending up on a best of horror list is because the dissociation of the main character is frightening to those of us who do feel. Or possibly because what happens in the end isn't necessarily just, but is more about people not understanding someone whose thought process is so alien from their own.
This was an incredibly fast read, well written. But it was not scary. It was certainly thought provoking, philosophical, but not horror.
The main character, Monsieur Meursault, goes through life in an apathetic fashion. Nothing bothers him. He is bored. He drifts, really, not fully living. Yet he does have some feeling. He can desire a woman, for instance. But he can't love her. Nor could he love his mother in the sense that most of us understand.
In the beginning of the book, Meursault is concerned because he has to ask his boss for time off. But his mother has died, and he reasons that his boss can't be too angry since it's for a good reason. He doesn't grieve for his mother, something those around him don't understand. Having been in a situation where my grief was delayed, I really didn't find this so bizarre. It happens.
However, it keeps happening. It doesn't bother him that a neighbor abuses his dog. Or that another neighbor beats his girlfriend and shames her. In fact, he becomes friends with this guy, which ultimately draws him into a situation where he kills a man. The rest of the book is about the court case, where they pull all kinds of witnesses who report that he didn't cry at his mother's funeral, that he had sex and saw a comedy with a woman within a day of her service, that he supported a man who was beating his girlfriend. The reader sees that it isn't so much because he's a bad person, but because he views things differently, but the jury can't see this.
I left the book conflicted, which is, I believe, what the author wanted. I'm really not sure what to say in terms of the horror list review since I maintain that it isn't horror, but commentary. It's worth a read if you find the premise interesting. I've linked to the translation I read, since there are multiple. The book was originally written in French. Camus was Algerian, and that is where the book is set.
So...read it if you think it sounds interesting, and you want to follow along with a man immersed in apathy. Don't read it for a scare or any type of horror.
My new rankings:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
5. The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010 (Paula Guran)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
8. Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror (Ellen Datlow)
9. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
10. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
11. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
12. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
13. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
14. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
15. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
16. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
17. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
18. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
19. World War Z (Max Brooks)
20. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury)
21. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
22. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
23. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
24. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
25. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell)
26. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
The next book I'll be reading is Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach.
Have you read this book? Was it by choice, or as a school assignment? What did you think? Did you think he deserved the ending?
May you find your Muse.