For more than five years—basically since I started living alone—there is a set window of time during which I can watch horror movies: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, and during the week never (unless I feel like some Freddy Krueger before breakfast). Because even as I settle into the throes of adulthood, I am still easily scared. I hate peeking under my bed, or behind the shower curtain, and closing my mirrored medicine cabinet still makes my heart flutter. All of which I credit to a childhood spent watching wildly inappropriate B horror movies rented from the kind of video store that had an adult section. When Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer brought the horror genre back into the mainstream in the late ‘9os, I didn’t know whether to be more excited about my favorite genre’s budding popularity, or Skeet Ulrich.
Scream creator Wes Craven’s death this week is no small loss for scary cinema, and has me reflecting on what it was about Scream that catapulted a silly slasher flick into worldwide popularity. Despite a very of-the-moment cast (did I mention Skeet Ulrich?) and genius mask work, Scream’s true strength was in its wink at the fourth wall—the veil between fiction and reality that has to exist lest we start wondering why everyone in horror movies acts like they’ve never seen one before. Don’t go up the stairs! Don’t look for that laughing child! TURN AROUND!! Scream took cinematic self-awareness to the next level, as its main characters often preempted their own murders with diatribes on the inherent ridiculousness of horror movie tropes. “It was a tactic that made even Scream’s most cliche moments feel ironic and sophisticated,” I wrote in Newsweek.
Well guys, 2012 is drawing swiftly to a close and I have nothing to show for myself except a sweet new job and the collective knowledge of ~53 finished books (52.3 if I’m being honest about Les Mis, 58.3 if I count the Gone series and all three FSOG books). A productive year indeed.
Last week I posted the mathematically irrefutable Best Books of 2012, a labor on which I spent an undisclosed number of hours (like five) but after a little rest, relaxation, and weirdly mortifying perusal of my own ramblings from the last 12 months, I’d now like to share a more important list: the books I read this year that made the biggest impact on my little reality-TV-filled brain. Few of these titles were released in 2012, a byproduct of my resigned refusal to spend $27 on hardcovers, but sometimes it’s nice to read a book a few years after its release, when you can absorb it in the vacuum of irrelevance.
So here are the books that touched my shriveled-up heart this year, in dramatic countdown order. Happy reading!
The year is 2044, and things are not looking so great. Most of humanity is destitute, including overweight teenager Wade Watts, who lives with his aunt and hundreds of other people in “the stacks,” long rows of mobile homes stacked on top of one another and precariously held together with scaffolding. Wade’s only recourse from the shitty regular world is the OASIS, a massive online game that he, like most of the rest of the global population, is jacked into for the majority of each day. Wade attends school in the OASIS, which is also home to some ten thousand planets, housing everything from offices to complete replications of scenes or environments from Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons and more.
The OASIS was created by James Halliday, a Steve Jobs-like genius whose love of his creation is matched only by his love of all things 1980s, a nostalgia that extends to any cultural artifact from the time: movies, music, comic books, videogames, etc. Upon his death, Halliday releases a video will that promises ownership of his company (and a $200+ billion fortune) to whoever can uncover an “easter egg” he’s buried in the game.