Monday, January 18, 2016

Blog Thing

Think Yourself Lucky (2014) by Ramsey Campbell: One could see this as the third novel in Ramsey Campbell's Internet Trilogy, though no such thing has ever been codified. The uber-veteran Liverpudlian horror writer understands the New Media better than a lot of young punks a third his age, possibly because he always connects what can happen on the Internet with what has always happened in the unmediated real world.

There's an occasionally melancholy, occasionally slapsticky, and always observant feel to this novel. Travel agency grunt David Botham has a job made recently more difficult because of the end of his relationship with his boss. His current girlfriend, a cook, is having boss problems of her own at work. And Botham's recent verbal outburst has attracted the attention of the leader of a local Liverpudlian writers' group who thinks Botham's verbal talents suggest untapped potential as a writer.

Like the amiable, almost-accidental serial killer of Campbell's The Count of Eleven, David is something of a repressed soul. Various factors involving his (still living) parents and assorted childhood experiences have led him to keep pretty much everything in, all the time. And the writers' group guy seems to be right -- indeed, David's near-hysteria at someone suggesting he try writing and publishing confirms this fact very early in the novel.

But it's the Internet Trilogy, isn't it? While The Grin of the Dark explored the conspiracy theories and strange online feuds of the Web and Seven Days of Cain explored online dreams of wish fulfillment erupting into the real world, Think Yourself Lucky examines the ways in which the anonymity of the online world can encourage a person to say and electronically do things far too vile for the real world.

David discovers there's a blog with a name seemingly plucked from a phrase he uttered during his verbal rant. And the blogger has begun to recount terrible acts of revenge on people for even the slightest of slights or accidents. For instance, the blogger describes severely crippling a man who had inadvertently caused him to scratch his car. That man is David's neighbour.

Think Yourself Lucky works as a character study of someone who's almost morbidly withdrawn when it comes to honestly expressing his emotions. It bears some resemblance to Stephen King's The Dark Half. However, Campbell's characters are both more finely drawn and a whole lot funnier than King's. And the relationship between the mysterious blogger and David is a more complex one than that between the writer and his doppelganger in The Dark Half

The blogger has a certain amount of right on his side, though not when it comes to his apparently injurious and homicidal acts he says he commits. If there actually are injuries and murders committed by this blogger. This is very satisfying fare that rings changes on the long-standing horror trope of the Doppelganger or the Other. Recommended.

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