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CALIFORNIA GOTHIC Mass Market Paperback – May 1 1995


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Dell (May 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440217261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440217268
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 11.4 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 1.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Format: Hardcover
Well, not a very successful book. But really, in order to decide that, you'd have to know what the author's intent was, right? Here it just isn't clear. Now, that's not always a bad thing, but here, as is so in most "horror" tales, it is a bad thing. Everything about the story seemed rather arbitrary. It could've begun anywhere, could've gone anywhere, could've ended up anywhere. It just didn't matter. There was some good atmospheric stuff, but more often than not it was unnecessary, thrown in just to show how well the author could put you in the setting of the story. To make this review short, keep you horizons narrow and this will be a mind-blowing novel. Read more than three or four books in your life and this thing will either bore you or fall apart before your eyes. Hey, and here's something funny: I read this thing three times. Why? I think it was something in the drinking water here. I had forgotten reading it. Maybe it's just not good enough to remember but not bad enough to outrage the reader enough to always remember it and resent the author. In other words, it's like a lot of the horror being pedalled out there. Happy dumpster-diving.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've recently started another book by edited Etchison and the name was hauntingly familiar-- all I could remember was that he wrote a lame book that was my misfortune to read many years ago. And this was it. Move on, move on, move on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It's Frankenbook! May 26 2000
By Chadwick H. Saxelid - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Is the main character haunted by the ghost of a former love, will the reader even care? This "novel" is nothing more than a few short stories stapled together to make a book length read. And the print and chapter gaps are pretty large too. Etchison is a great writer and this book is not without merit, but it feels like something that was tossed off, and the ending will make you feel cheated.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Like most Etchison stuff . . . Feb. 24 2003
By Greg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Well, not a very successful book. But really, in order to decide that, you'd have to know what the author's intent was, right? Here it just isn't clear. Now, that's not always a bad thing, but here, as is so in most "horror" tales, it is a bad thing. Everything about the story seemed rather arbitrary. It could've begun anywhere, could've gone anywhere, could've ended up anywhere. It just didn't matter. There was some good atmospheric stuff, but more often than not it was unnecessary, thrown in just to show how well the author could put you in the setting of the story. To make this review short, keep you horizons narrow and this will be a mind-blowing novel. Read more than three or four books in your life and this thing will either bore you or fall apart before your eyes. Hey, and here's something funny: I read this thing three times. Why? I think it was something in the drinking water here. I had forgotten reading it. Maybe it's just not good enough to remember but not bad enough to outrage the reader enough to always remember it and resent the author. In other words, it's like a lot of the horror being pedalled out there. Happy dumpster-diving.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Forced, contrived, and unsatisfying Sept. 26 2002
By Daniel Jolley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Finishing this novel was like waking up from a dream. When you dream, crazy things happen to you that seem sort of real yet really weird and illogical at the time, and it doesn't take long to forget the whole thing once you wake up. California Gothic features a disjointed narrative and a rather shaky plot. I really don't understand what Etchison's vision or intention was in writing this novel. Dan and Evie are happily married with one son, Eddie. Before Dan met Evie, his former girlfriend went gung ho over an anarchist resistance group and ended up dead at the hands of government agents. Out of the blue, Dan gets a message from his dead old flame announcing she is coming to take what is hers. Once she gets there, things get weird for everyone. Dan and Evie run around in circles, son Eddie and his fellow horror fan friend try to film their own horror film in the local salvage yard (with the mystery girl from Dan's past as the star), and each chapter seems to have its own separate reality. Some people end up dead, and then book finally winds down to a welcome yet lackluster ending. A lot of what these characters did made little sense to me, especially when two different versions of the same event started appearing in the murkier waters of the denouement. The writing itself does little to make up for the shaky plot. I found many of Etchison's descriptions to be rather contrived and wooden; in fact, he overdoes his descriptions to the point that they often become rather absurd.

Individual chapters did not really seem like different stories, but they also weren't connected to each other well enough to satisfy me. A lot of things struck me as quite goofy if not nonsensical in these pages, and the dialogues were too often forced and artificial. I never really connected with any character, so I never really cared what happened to any of them. This book won't bore you to tears or make you hurl it across the room, but it is far from compelling reading.
FAMILY GOTHIC THAT IS A WORTHY ADDITION TO THE GENRE Aug. 21 2014
By Kirkwood Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Rather than standard horror fare, Dennis Etchison's CALIFORNIA GOTHIC belongs squarely in the category of family gothic literature. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I think this book is a fascinating read, especially if you are already among those discriminating folks who love Etchison's short stories. But Dennis Etchison's fiction, particularly in novel form, is not for the casual reader as much as for the connoisseur. Sex and scandal? Not so much. Great writing, characterization, and gothic goodness? It's all here.

Fans of gothic literature in particular will delight in the way CALIFORNIA GOTHIC displays Etchison's knowledge of the gothic genre and its traditions, which are wonderfully suited to his talents. This is the type of gothic driven by family dynamics and dysfunction. What frightened me the most in this book was Etchison's terrifyingly accurate psychological portrayal of his characters. I felt like I knew these characters, not as "types," but as people, right down to the innermost secret thoughts they would never want anyone to know. Etchison, in my opinion, is one of the most psychologically astute writers in the field of speculative fiction.

In keeping with the gothic atmosphere, Nature echoes and enhances the novel's drama. "… a dying earthworm … cranked its segments in a desperate circle, signaling for help." The family home—a suburban "… long, boatlike prefab kit that some other hopeful soul had hammered together in the forties …" –can symbolize failure as much as success. The theme of appearance vs. reality dominates in its Southern Californian milieu. What better place for the line between dreams and drudgery to blur?

Then there is the original and brilliant use of film as a gothic device—in this case zombie-flick screenplays as seen through the eyes of a teenage boy—serving as commentary on the ongoing action and conflicted characters. This is an inspired artistic choice, carrying on the story-within-a-story tradition of the most beloved gothic tales.

The novel's main problem lies in its underutilization of the more sensationalistic plot elements, which rather than being shunned, should have been put to better use.

Yes, there is Jude, a mystery woman who, many years ago, was once the lover of the protagonist, Dan Markham. Jude belonged to a cult deliciously named the Church of Satan the Redeemer (CSR). Markham believes that Jude burned to death during a raid and subsequent fire in the CSR compound. Markham, though, has moved on with his life. He's got his slice of the American dream—a business, a home, a wife, a young son on the cusp of adolescence. But now it seems his past is returning to haunt him …

I absolutely love the mentions of the Church of Satan the Redeemer (CSR), a clever reference to the appearance of the devil and satanic rites that go with the gothic territory. But the killer/stalker/possible Satanist plot feels out of place, and also like a wasted opportunity because it's really only mentioned in passing from plot point to plot point. I think the sensationalistic elements could have been explored to satisfy the true-crime types and also used as a vivid backdrop to emphasize the more profound ideas and implications of the novel.

Also, though the deepest thoughts and feelings of Dan Markham and his family are woven beautifully into the fabric of the story, the thoughts of the antagonist are a blank page. I think in this case the thoughts of Markham's nemesis might have provided some chilling contrast to the thoughts of the "good" people in the book.

However, I still recommend CALIFORNIA GOTHIC and give it four stars for being an addition to the family gothic genre with original elements and fantastic characterization.
Beautifully spun novel from a master of the short story ... Aug. 17 2014
By Shirley J. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The mind often plays tricks on the body – fertile imagination goading the eyes to surreal visions, shadows of the past lending credence to an otherwise unthinkably outrageous perception of the present. Dennis Etchison takes the reader on such an unsettling trip in California Gothic, where the initial mile of beaten path leads to the veritable slippery slope of morbidly suggestive imagery, self-conscious, guilt-ridden brow beating and second guessing in an insane reality where said behavior is not necessarily justified but IS oddly redundant. California Gothic is a dark time capsule of sorts, its apt description of the San Fernando Valley of the 1990s sprinkled with an almost absurd paranormal flavor setting the distinct tone and color of the novel.

Perhaps Mr. Etchison’s point is that you can truly never go home again, or home is where the heart is, or the heart is, indeed, a lonely hunter. Whatever the underlying message may be, it is impossible to pin the author’s intent down and each reader will draw her or her own conclusions from this troubling tale. Beautifully spun novel from a master of the short story - psychedelic, revelatory, foreboding and treacherous. Watch your step on this one; things are never quite what they appear to be.

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