Unbury Carol

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

As I look at all the wonderful positive reviews of this book I'm thinking I must have missed something.  When I downloaded it I thought the premise of the story sounded great but the further I read the more I lost interest.  Set in a small western town the key characters are introduced and not many of them are likable.  Carol's mother was bizarre, her husband was evil and Carol herself was strange.  I received a copy of this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book. It was weird, dark and fun. 

This book won't be for everyone, but if you want something a little bizarre, not terribly unbelievable, and have enjoyed a Stephen King book or two this might be for you. Unbury Carol is a western horror that somehow works. This book was an adventure.

While I did enjoy reading this book it was still missing a little something. My guess is I won't remember this story too well a year from now, but I hope Josh Malerman puts out another book soon.
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I think this was a worthy read that definitely could've been 4 stars, but I think it was a bit over ambitious trying to be too different. The over usage of Heaven's Hell got on my nerves and the rot/death was over the top. There's a name for this, but it eludes me right now. This book didn't wow me. Although, I'm happy to have read it. Great concept that needed better execution (in my humble opinion).
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Meh. I kept hoping this would get better. And it didn’t. I was *this close* to DNF’ing, especially after reading a review from another blogger that summed up exactly what I was feeling. But I persevered and was duly disappointed. This is set in a sort of old west setting with outlaws and carriages and such. But there is an underlying magic that is never really fleshed out. Carol, one of the main characters, has a condition where her body goes into a severe coma that makes her seem dead. Her husband has decided he wants her money and her out of his life so when the coma comes, he decides that she is “dead” and ready to be buried. What comes next is a whole lot of nothing with people questioning if she is dead or if the husband had something to do with the death. With all that, it had the great bones for a book, but it just seems like nothing happens.
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Another fantastic book by Josh Malerman!  I will definitely be recommending this one to everyone who read Bird Box.  His writing style is beautiful
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Hell’s Heaven! UNBURY CAROL is an Old West Cinemascope nightmare filled with sweat and savagery, galloping at the pace of a horse pushed to its limits. Highly recommended.
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I usually love Josh's writing, but this book didn't do it for me. It was fairly easy to get into at first, but too many small things began to bother me. I still look forward to more books from him.
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I read Birdbox by Josh Malerman a few years ago and it quickly become one of my all time favorite horror stories and I recommend it constantly so when I saw Malerman had a brand new horror novel out, I had to jump on the chance to read it and I was pleasantly surprised.

The book begins with our main character Carol and her husband who are attending one of her friends funerals and we fastly learn the Carol has a very strange condition where her heart slows to the point being considered "dead". She can hear everything that is going on around her but can't move the entire time! WHAT!? I don't want to spoil anything else because you really need to read it to see how this all developes.

It really is a unique story that's teetering on the edge of western and fantasy. I missed Malermans fast-paced writing and interesting vocabulary. it's an enjoyable ride through another time and place, and well worth it. An incredibly entertaining read.
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Ok, I've tried. Repeatedly. But I just cannot get into this...  I was highly intrigued by the concept, but as I have been reading I've been increasingly unconcerned about the plight of everyone in the story. I am having a hard time suspending disbelief that a long-lost (long scared-away, more like) lover would (a) be remembered by a peripheral player, (b) come back now, and (c) actually be of any use in this situation, and that - combined with my lethargy and dispassionate feelings for the characters - rendered the whole thing into the "not for me" pile...
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LitReactor.com Review by Chris Schultz

osh Malerman became famous for his 2014 debut novel Bird Box, and while ostensibly speaking his subsequent publications haven't received the same level of critical praise (numerous reviews and even the publisher's promotional blurbs for Bird Box routinely compared Malerman to Stephen King), he has no less proven himself to be a lasting voice in horror literature.

His latest novel, Unbury Carol (out now from Del Rey), further solidifies this legacy, and will no doubt renew comparisons to the "Master of Horror," as this effort is immediately reminiscent of King's Dark Tower series. Both blend elements of the Western, supernatural fantasy, and a simple (but not simplistic) good vs. evil narrative. And yet, Malerman also sets himself apart from King here by delivering prose that is both lean and evocative, delving into his characters' internal mental clockwork without inspecting every inch of the mechanisms, allowing the reader to better feel the immediacy of the breakneck story.
Malerman himself plays the part of a magician here, as he takes the well-known construct of a fairy tale and turns it into something original and surprising.

As the title alone indicates, the primary plot concerns a woman named Carol Evers, who is faced with one of those primal, universal fears: being buried alive. This horror has loomed over Carol her entire life, as she suffers from a rare condition that sends her into days-long comas that mimic death so thoroughly, only the most meticulous of observers can detect the life still coursing through her body. Inside these comas—a realm she calls Howltown due to the ever-present, low rumbling wind—Carol remains conscious and able to hear everything going on around her, though she cannot see and experiences a sensation of falling face-first into a never-ending abyss. These episodes are ultimately more of a nuisance for Carol—mysterious and uncomfortable, yes, but harmless—so long as there is someone there to ensure she isn't mistaken for dead and sent to the funeral home.

Unfortunately, her husband Dwight—a rather slimy, cowardly, and covetous man who no longer wishes to live under his wealthy and well-loved wife's shadow—enacts a plot to do just that. When she falls into Howltown toward the beginning of the novel, he tells the world Carol has passed, and begins planning her services with local mortician Robert Manders. Aiding him in this nefarious deed is the witchy trail watcher Lafayette, a woman both hated and feared by locals, and a shapeshifting phantom called Rot, who is in fact the very embodiment of decay and who desires Carol's genuine passing for his own clandestine reasons. Seemingly, her only hope of salvation rests in former lover James Moxie, who abandoned her twenty years earlier for an outlaw's life and became a legend for his "Trick in Abberstown," where it is said he used some kind of black magic to shoot a man in a duel without ever drawing his gun. Alerted to her plight by Carol's dutiful friend and attendant Farrah, Moxie rides out in the hopes of saving her life and atoning for his leaving her those two decades prior.

Magic—or more appropriately, illusion—acts as a kind of spine throughout the novel. Nothing is as it seems in this world. Malerman himself plays the part of a magician here, as he takes the well-known construct of a fairy tale and turns it into something original and surprising (Sleeping Beauty immediately comes to mind). At face value, we have a damsel in distress (Carol), a dastardly and evil villain (typically another female character, but here represented by Dwight, though he is in cahoots with the "evil queen" figure Lafayette), and a heroic "knight in shining armor" who races to save the day (Moxie). Malerman's greatest trick here is providing Carol with a tremendous amount of agency despite rendering her incapacitated throughout the narrative. Yes, there is a man on the trail, riding to rescue her, but she places very few of her hopes and desires on his making it in time, focusing instead on pulling herself out of Howltown, something she's never really been able to do before, but a task she throws herself into given the life and death circumstances. 

Moxie too breaks away from his typical fairy tale mold, as he is not an embodiment of goodness. He succumbed to his fears as a young man and abandoned Carol precisely because he did not want the responsibility of looking after a woman with a serious condition, choosing instead a nomadic life of carousing and lawlessness, of guns, robberies, and revelry. In his later years, he becomes instead the very embodiment of guilt, which further hinders rather than propels his ability to put right his past wrongs.

Similarly, Dwight, while never a sympathetic character, is not a stock villain either, twirling his mustache and laughing menacingly. He is mewling and insufferable at his worst, and at his best he is pitiful, though not in a way that elicits a desire in the reader to take pity on him, since he does enough self-pitying to last a lifetime. But it is this selfishness that drives his actions, his sense of entitlement that makes him so dangerous. In other words, as a mere man, it is hard to take him seriously, but as a villain, he is a considerable threat.

The aforementioned Rot is a treacherous trickster as well, donning a myriad of faces, championing Dwight, and preying on Moxie's guilt to capture Carol, his white whale. His ghastly, ever-changing visage leaves an indelible mark on the reader's mind, and yet, perhaps the most memorable baddie of the bunch is the most straightforward, the most transparent—the as yet unmentioned Smoke, an assassin partial to improvisational rhyming and singing, who uses fire rather than guns to dispatch his targets. It is his method of torching that stands out as so original and sickeningly ingenious: he loads up his tin prosthetic legs with oil, and uses strings looped up through his pants pockets to release the oil through his heels, allowing him to step over and across objects and, more horrifyingly, people, while slathering them with flammable coats. Though he is unhinged and at times unpredictable, with Smoke, what you see is what you get, and while his appearances on the page are disturbing, one cannot help but read on. He is to Unbury Carol what Rutger Haur's portrayal of Roy Batty is to Blade Runner. 

But while Smoke is certainly the show-stealer, the entire novel is an engaging, enthralling, and altogether entertaining experience from front to back. It is a fast read, in part due to Malerman's literary economy, but more so than this, it is simply hard to put down. Anyone experiencing doubts as to Malerman's staying power in the world of horror will have those doubts quelled after reading Unbury Carol.
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I think this book is such a mix of genres: suspense, paranormal, western that it would be hard to find the specific reader that would like it.
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Thanks Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and netgalley for this ARC.

This is a fantasy/romance/mystery that sits in its own universe. Loved the fast pace, mystical thread that runs thru it, and the conclusion you won't see coming.
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I had a huge expectation for this book after reading Birdbox which is one of my favorite books of all time. 

Carol has a rare condition which causes her to fall into a coma for days at the drop of a hat. To anyone unfamiliar with her disease, she appears to be dead. It's important for at least someone to know what's going on with her so that she doesn't get buried alive by mistake. However, Carol is reluctant to tell many people for fear of rejection, and in one case, the departure of her true love who just didn't want to deal with the responsibility. Will she ever find true love again? Will there ever be a cure for her malady?
In the beginning, there is lots of build-up and stage setting, traveling, planning, character building but very little actually happening. I stuggled to keep up with this book. It was an Okay read for me.
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Let me start by saying that I LOVED "Bird Box" by Malerman, so was interested to see what this book would be like. Boring. It was boring, I was bored. The "Sleeping Beauty" association seems a bit stretched - it is about a woman 'asleep' who isn't dead but some people think she is, but the town around her isn't also asleep, she hasn't been asleep for centuries, there is no curse aside from biology, so ... meh. The whole Western outlaw thing was bizarre, in a boring way, to be honest. I picked up this book having loved the previous creep-fest of a book by Malerman, and was disappointed that this veered so far from it. I didn't understand the 'Trail' with a capital T, and hoped that it'd be more creepy than just a wild, outlaw-run situation, and maybe I missed something by stopping early, but if I'm not drawn in after 1/4 of the book, then it's just not worth it, in my honest opinion. 

Full disclosure, I only made it 25% in before I just decided I have a big ol' list of books I'd rather be reading.
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Excerpt of a full review on Ink Heist:

Writing about the work of Josh Malerman always presents something of a conundrum for me. For one thing, whenever I type his name I feel almost compelled to preface it with the words, “The Great…” And whenever I think of that, I find myself thinking how strange and uncommon that is, and also how wonderful. That the individual in question is so young is something that my grizzled experience tells me should inform the depth of his ability but it doesn’t do that at all. Or, even more wondrous, if age is a factor in the level of his talent, if he will—and I assume this to be the case—get better with time and experience, then the thought becomes nearly uncanny. He’s already so freaky, magically, vastly, endlessly, remarkably and all the other ‘lys” good at what he does that it’s almost impossible to conceive of a world in which Malerman is even better than he is right now. Because with the sad advent of the recent death of the great Jack Ketchum, in my not at all humble estimation, Josh Malerman became the best living author working in the field of horror right now, bar none. I’d bank on that and you can too. In a time when we are surrounded by some of the best that have ever laid pen to paper, there is none better.
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This book is weird - in the best possible way. Lyrical and dark and intriguing in a world that only Malerman can create. This book isn't for everyone, and that's just fine. Malerman writes stories his way, and readers are along for the ride. The pace of this book is much slower than Malerman's previous work, The Bird Box, but it is engrossing and the characters are fully fleshed out and interesting. It's not one to recommend to casual thriller readers, but fans of psychological horror and all things strange will love this one.
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oh, bummer.

i loved bird box. thought it was terrifying. i do not normally enjoy scary books, i am scared far too easily. but i loved it.

this one sounded SO good. unfortunately it fell flat immediately for me. i almost DNF'd it but i was curious and kept hoping it would get better.  the writing felt so different, i didn't like the setting or the characters... it just was not for me. sorry. thanks anyway netgalley :)
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Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.

Carol Evers is a happy, attractive woman, who frequently falls into a catatonic state she calls Howltown. Her husband, Dwight, with his eye on her fortune, plans her permanent death while she's stuck in its stasis, but one man, her former paramour James Moxie, sends a telegram that exclaims the book's title. In all, their three stories (plus an occasional flashback to Carol's mom) are told very well, while also with the overhanging spectre of death and doom.
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This somewhat unusual story starts with the premise that the main character falls into a death-like coma at any time. Setting plausibility aside, it does turn into a game of suspense and character development/unfolding. A worthwhile and page-turning historical adventure for fans of suspense.
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This was my first time reading a Josh Malerman book, although I have had Birdbox on my TBR list for far too long.  I plan to pick that one up soon, now, to compare.  I would like to know ifwhat I read in Unbury Carol is his typical style.  

To be honest, I did not love this book.  I can appreciate the achievement, but I did not enjoy it. I really had to force myself to pick it up every day, like a chore I did not want to do.  Because of that, it took me far too long to read, considering its relative brevity compared to many other books I read.  I did not feel any attachment to the characters and the plot was very strange.  Before I started the book, I loved the idea of it, expecting a western/horror mashup.  I guess I got that, but still, I feel that something was lacking.
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