Written in 1961, Kenneth Cook’s deeply unsettling novel Wake In Fright is a cult classic that follows the travails of an urbanite teacher, John, who’s plucked from Sydney to work in a remote Outback school. Attempting to return home for the holidays, he winds up trapped in a desolate mining town when a one-night stay goes disastrously wrong following an ill-advised foray into illegal gambling . With his money gone, John’s mind begins to follow, and the human flotsam who become his new companions are happy to pull him down into a haze of drugs and booze. Cook vividly depicts an Australia that no longer exists, but his protagonist is all-too-relatable, making the complete disintegration of his identity and self-control all the more disturbing.
It’s 1:00 a.m. and I have to be up early, but I am still reading this book, I CAN’T PUT IT DOWN! What is wrong with me? I don’t want to do anything but read The Passage (Ballantine, $25) by Justin Cronin. I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to go to work, I don’t want to sleep. If you think you don’t like horror fiction, think again--I guarantee that once you read the first few pages of this book you, too, will be hooked. Cronin’s is a story about a virus the army hopes will turn soldiers into super-weapons. The only problem is that, once infected, humans become super-scary, bloodsucking creatures. When the American population is exposed to and then ravaged by the virus, only small enclaves of people survive. The tale of how these survivors go on is utterly enthralling, adventurous, creepy, and exciting.