I’m Thinking Of Ending Things – Book Review

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Book Review

Originally posted: March, 2018

This unsettling journey leaves quite a few lingering questions in this psychological, philosophical, thriller. I initially came across I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Lain Reid, through a horror podcast, Shock Waves Podcast, by Blumhouse. The novel’s title lends itself to a variety of interpretations. My immediate take, and perhaps the most obvious, was the ending of a relationship. This personal resolve of “ending things” is the central plot, initiated by our unnamed narrator, as the reader may refer to as the “girlfriend”. The opening paragraph outlines her intentions with ending things, stating “It lingers. It dominates. There’s not much I can do about it. Trust me.”

I found myself in a leery state of mind as I read the novel. With an unreliable narrator (told in the first-person), the “girlfriend” not only keeps others, as well as readers, in the dark, and she is not entirely honest with herself as well. I’m Thinking of Ending Things takes readers on a road trip with our narrator and her boyfriend, Jake, through rural American country roads with the intent of meeting his parents. The further we advance along this trip, the more we learn of the narrator’s terrifying past.

“Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.” 

The narrative is told in threefold; the present time in which we examine the current state of all characters in the plot, the past which explores terrifying events throughout the narrator’s life, and finally, minor portions of dialogue describing a mysterious murder scene are scattered throughout the story. Reid’s use of dialogue really made this an enjoyable read. As the novel delves into several themes of philosophy and the human psyche, I found it easy to follow even in the midst of so much information. As the mysteries of the novel begin to unfold, the lingering question of why things should come to an end is never quite answered. 

“Just tell your story. Pretty much all memory is fiction and heavily edited. So just keep going.” 

My natural inclination to resolve the ending well before the last page led me to several avenues. Although I won’t spoil it for anyone (yet), Reid’s novel kept me engaged up until the very end; regardless of whether or not I’d figured it out beforehand. The surrealism adds to the mysterious quality of I’m Thinking of Ending Things. In a way, it reminds me of The Twilight Zone

*Minor Spoiler Ahead*At the story’s conclusion, we are still left with lingering questions, as noted earlier. Plagued with several red herrings, the novel never quite reaches full circle on a few issues; rather they seem to be conveniently swept “under the rug” as the conclusion unfolds. Although I very much enjoyed this book, keep in mind, it may require a second read-through. The novel is thought-provoking and original, but it carries a hint of James Mangold’s 2003 film, Identity. That’s not a bad thing. It merely puts things into perspective once the denouement draws to a close. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a read I’d recommend due to its ability to engage, captivate, frighten, and most important, Reid is such a gifted writer. His use of stream-of-consciousness kept me inside the narrator’s head; I knew what she knew, and found myself surprised when she was. I hope you find this work to be as satisfying as I have. Thanks for reading.

A Deadly Step in Evolution for “Dead Space: Catalyst” – A Book Review

Originally Published: February 2017

We are whole again, Isaac. We are whole

The survivor-horror genre has played a vital role in shaping the way consumers experience the immersive gaming environment. The user-experience challenges one’s fears, forcing players to evaluate their means of survival at the cost of limited resources geared at creating a sense of helplessness. Whether through film, television, video games, or even novels, other significant elements such as tone, language, characters, and subject matter truly define the experience of a terrifying journey. One such example is the Dead Space series.

The initial release of the widely successful Dead Space videogame series spawned two sequels, along with literary companions such as comic books, novels, and short animated films. With the growing popularity of the Dead Space franchise, several forms of media are designated as “expanded universe” in order to contribute in further developing the mythology within the DS universe. With an extensive amount of gameplay, as well as reading, dedicated to capturing the full experience and understanding of the Dead Space mythos, perhaps one can conclude certain attributes are shared between the DS universe and classic horror literature. 

Possibly drawing inspiration from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dead Space focuses its attention to the construction of an extraterrestrial artifact known as the Marker; just as the souls of Hell construct Pandaemonium, the capitol of Hell, in Paradise Lost. A prevalent element in both Paradise Lost and Dead Space, idolatry reveals characters are invested in a faith founded on false beliefs seemingly built on salvation and paradise. The construction of Pandaemonium illustrates a form of Hell’s power yet ultimately falls short of any form of paradise. The same applies to the Marker in Dead Space. A practice of veneration turned worship presents a false paradise when the Marker’s true form and intent is revealed.

The Marker possesses a means of producing a powerful electromagnetic signal, which prompts scientists to seize and harness its limitless power. Yet it’s soon discovered these signals cause hallucinations and severe paranoia among the human residents nearby. The Marker’s purpose is to produce a phenomenon known as Convergence, providing unity amongst not only those affected, but uniting Markers across the universe with the purpose of being ‘made whole’. Yet at what cost?

B.K. Evenson, author of Dead Space: Catalyst, provides an exceptional addition to the Dead Space expanded universe. Evenson remains faithful to the Dead Space mythos while providing insight with further details of the Marker’s methodical approach to universal dominion.

Glorious. The next step in evolution. Marvelous Convergence, the extension of consciousness.

Evenson divides the narrative arc in two; dedicated to the protagonist and the Marker. Just as the backstory of the Marker takes form along with the relevance of its architecture, the novel continues a similar pattern. Beginning with the wide foundation, the novel slowly builds upwards, weaving together character storylines to an unexpected conclusion.  This analogy is important, taking into consideration the complex mythology of the Dead Space universe. 

The tone of the novel, as expected, was dark with little to no humor. The video game series relies heavily on visual effects and surroundings for the purpose of immersing the player within the horrors of the Marker’s dominion. In a similar manner, Evenson utilizes powerful imagery by replicating the terrors and fears emulating the game’s grotesque environment.

Dead Space: Catalyst is a great read for both fans and non-fans alike of the video games series. It’s bizarre, grotesque and a very enjoyable read. As the Marker creates an unbreakable bond with its victims, perhaps it will take hold of you, too. Thanks for reading.

Matthew.