Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon December 2, 2013 - 7:52am

'The Least of My Scars' by Stephen Graham Jones

Discussion has officially started!

Synopsis: You haven't heard of William Colton Hughes. Or, if you have, then you're not telling anybody. Not telling them anything, ever. He's not the serial killer on the news, in the textbooks. He's the one out there still punching his card, and a few other people's too. He is a nightmare come to life, waiting in his apartment for you to knock on his door. William Colton Hughes is living his fantasy: his victims are delivered to his apartment every few days. But when he's suddenly alone, no visitors, nobody to talk to but himself, he begins to lose what little of his mind he has left. Has his benefactor, his employer, been his prison warden all along? His apartment complex a hospital? Is he going to have to go back to heaving dark plastic bags into dumpsters when nobody's looking? Or will Dashboard Mary, a mysterious woman hell-bent on revenge, get to him first? This is William Colton Hughes. Come and knock on his door.

Author: Stephen Graham Jones. Born and raised in Texas. In Boulder, Colorado now. Forty-one. Blackfeet. Into werewolves and slashers and zombies. Would wear pirate shirts a lot if he could find them. And probably carry some kind of sword. More over at http://demontheory.net or @SGJ72

Discussion has officially started!

I think that Stephen Graham Jones is no stranger to this site. He's done a few classes, I'm pretty sure. I know he's written a few articles here. So far I've loved everything he's ever written. And he's written a lot. Sometimes it seems like he has a book a week coming out. We won't complain though. I just wish that I could read them as fast as he writes them.

So, yeah, I can't wait to get to this one.

Purchase the book here!

Get to reading!

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers December 2, 2013 - 8:22am

I'm in for this one :)

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore December 2, 2013 - 8:28am

I think the timing on this read will probably work out about right.

SRead's picture
SRead from Colorado is reading Stories December 2, 2013 - 9:17am

Hell yes.

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound December 2, 2013 - 11:49am

Got thi on my kindle, so will be partaking.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne December 2, 2013 - 1:24pm

Already halfway through. Sweet, I get to participate in another one! Hooray!

J David Osborne's picture
J David Osborne from Portland, OR December 3, 2013 - 7:31pm

What up, Clitreactor? I know more about this book than a human probably should. Seeing as how I've read it five times, let's have a discussion, shall we?

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne December 3, 2013 - 7:34pm

I want to start right now. What's with this waiting shit?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 12, 2013 - 1:01am

Because we are well on our way to start a pattern of getting the book title, a few people try to discuss it right away but there aren't enough so they have to wait, so by the time others have read it the first set haven't got much left to say, and the momentum dies.  So waiting for everyone is the way to go guys.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne December 12, 2013 - 5:04am

Of course ... I was just being stupid. I can be patient. It's just a really interesting book and I'm eager to see how it strikes people.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro December 20, 2013 - 8:12pm

Reading every last word of this motherfucker TONIGHT

Renae Gee's picture
Renae Gee from Australia is reading All the words! December 30, 2013 - 1:28pm

On to it, about a fifth of the way through and am loving it.

Eduardo Quinones's picture
Eduardo Quinones from NYC is reading S. By Doug Dorst and J. J. Abrams December 31, 2013 - 8:17pm

Girlfriend surprised me with this bad boy on Christmas. Just finished reading it, so many parts I want to reread. This book is a motherfucker.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers January 2, 2014 - 1:05pm

Finished! And wow.

Like, wow.

Loved it! The voice, the structure. Oh yeah. The tics, the slip-slide reality, just amazing.

Can't wait to talk about this :)

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro January 6, 2014 - 3:56pm

Is it appropriate to discuss this yet?

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon January 6, 2014 - 4:59pm

Absolutely! The discussion was supposed to start on the 1st. Anybody and everybody jump in!

Eduardo Quinones's picture
Eduardo Quinones from NYC is reading S. By Doug Dorst and J. J. Abrams January 6, 2014 - 7:39pm

How great were the conversations between Will and dashboard marry? Probably my favorite part of the book for some reason.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne January 7, 2014 - 7:43am

Only about halfway through. Life has rather gotten in the way ... hopefully I get this finished up soon. Really enjoying it.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies January 9, 2014 - 12:55pm

still haven't gotten my copy, but really dying to read it. hear it's great.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro January 10, 2014 - 2:55am

Those phone calls, man... the tension, I felt, because I felt there was tension, was only there outside of what I felt reading their conversations. Okay, let me explain that better. SGJ sucks you in deep with Billy/William. The only way anyone could get through a book like this without hating the narrator is if they sort of melt into the character's head. I kind of felt, not in a psycho killer way necessarily, some sort of deep connection to Billy while reading this. So on a scene level, those conversations were nerve racking, tense. While reading though, being stuck in Billy's head, I kind of felt more of the pining playfulness he seemed to be experiencing, in a sick and a sort of innocent way. Make any sense at all? 

Renae Gee's picture
Renae Gee from Australia is reading All the words! January 11, 2014 - 10:58pm

Wow,  I was propelled through this book by Billy, his whims, his demands, his changes in his reality.  The mannequin family protecting his inner room, intrigued me, especially as he requested the mannequins.  I guess using victims would have been too risky.

Kelby - yes, how is that I can feel some empathy for Billy and yet find his acts abhorrent.I found myself wanting to understand why he was like this. 

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro January 14, 2014 - 10:03pm

Okay, what was everyone's favorite... um, let's say "act" that Billy did with one of his victims? 

The part with him feeding the girl scout cookies to a corpse, washing them down with the milk and the milk coming back up, that made me all kinds of uncomfortable. But it was intriguing as hell. 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers January 15, 2014 - 2:03am

I enjoyed all Billy's arguments with the Kid Hoodie model he made, the spilt cereal, the snide-y looks and laughter. Kid Hoodie was kind of a make-your-own-antagonist project, because every other model Billy made he "liked" more didn't he?

SRead's picture
SRead from Colorado is reading Stories January 15, 2014 - 3:52pm

I've finished the book now, so I'll chime in. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It is by far the weirdest, darkest thing I have read to date, and since I usually seek out the weird dark stuff, that is high praise. Five stars from me (that almost never happens, except--apparently--with SGJ's books).

One part that really stood out to me (and deeply disturbed me) as I read was when he reminisced about the girl who claimed to be pregnant to try and stop him, and he said something like "she wasn't--we both saw." I needed a strong cup of tea after that passage. Yikes.

Also when he described the sound of the marble eyes hitting the toilet. For some reason that moment really horrified me.

I think my favorite quote was on page 141: "So it's like they never die, really. At least not until you do. And in spite of what they wished with their last breaths, or said with their eyes right before their pupils went all fixed and dilated, focused on something I always thought was right behind me but never could turn fast enough to see."

I thought that quote summed up Mr. Hughes really well. Poetically paranoid.

I'll be recommending this one to all of my friends, and I'll for sure give it a re-read or two in the future. Now I can finally go listen to all of the interviews and podcasts about it! I've been avoiding any spoilers, but it's been torture.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro January 15, 2014 - 9:09pm

Kid Hoodie as a build your own antagonist. I'd stand behind that perspective, yeah, excellent observation. 

The marble eyes made my asshole clench shut. Shudder. 

Did anyone else see the Jack twist coming? I thought I had it, not too early on, figured out, but then something made me second guess it, so it was a surprise nonetheless. But one of those, "ah, that makes sense" surprises vs. a "WTF?" moment. I loved the way that played out. The ending to this book does not let you slow down to breathe. 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers January 16, 2014 - 2:12am

Sarah, if you can: please post some links to the podcast/interviews, I'd love to read them too. Also yeah, I'm totally re-reading this to look for all the subtle hints.

The twist: I did think it earlier on, but then dismissed it ~ When Billy has that surreal memory thing about the girl coming to the house to look for her dad, I did for a moment think "is he her dad" but it feels so hallucinagenic that I wasn't really sure. And because Mary comes to the door to rescue the girl scout and doesn't recognise him.... well. Needless to say it was a very satisfying twist :)

About Mary and Billy: how did you want it to play out? For a while I thought she was another "project" living in the apartments, having people sent to her door, kind of I pictured a warped love-thing developing. I liked her as much as I liked Billy, I was a little gutted he didn't save her, or even spare her, even though I knew he wouldn't or couldn't. (which makes absolutely no sense in a sentence, but hey)

 

Renae Gee's picture
Renae Gee from Australia is reading All the words! January 18, 2014 - 3:57am

This scene,fairly early in the book, grabbed me and did not let me go; he is talking to his supplier, Mr Singer, about Belinda, the yoga instructor-

Her lips were in a jar, her tongue was in a twice  used rubber, and in her belly where I had just put it was the little toy of a dog.........His skin was perfect, his breath a dream, his eyes delicately lined black, like a stage actor......................What I did was take my index finger, already bloody, and trace a dotted incision along my side.  "If you cut here, and angle it over the first time you touch bone,you miss everything vital.  I can still live for three days like that.  You can watch the maggots boil out if you want.  Take some fucking pictures to jack off to later, and use the maggots as lubrication.  It's an experience I wouldn't want to deny you."

In the face of supposed control, he offers up a huge huge insult and gets away with it.  He is trying to establish what the yoga instrutor meant to Mr Singer, trying to provoke.  She is atill alive when we first come upon the scene, a realisation of the depravity Billy is capable of, about to stage a birth...

 

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon January 20, 2014 - 7:37am

I finally was able to sit down and finish this book over the weekend.

I'm having a hard time thinking of things to discuss about it though...

Before that last quarter of the book, I would have given it three stars. I love SGJ's writing, but I felt like something was missing. But that last quarter, that was really good. It bumped it up to a 4 star.

Stephen has written some dark fiction before. But I don't think I've read anything of his that is as dark as this. You just feel dirty reading it.

And Billy is such a bad, bad guy. And the whole time, you're on his side. You're rooting for him.

SPOILER:
Did anybody else think/hope that he was going to save Mary there at the end when he told her to play along and say "no" to everything?
 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers January 20, 2014 - 7:53am

@Pete ~ me!! See my above comment :)

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon January 20, 2014 - 10:49am

Sorry - I was trying not to read too much of the posts until I finished.

I seriously thought there was more of a hallucination going on. I thought Billy was living in an insane asylum (which he even hinted at at one point). And maybe that he wasn't killing anything, but there was something else going on. I thought his employer was actually his doctor. Obviously I was wrong about all of that.

At the end of the book too, there's this line that Billy is standing on where he's either weak and pathetic or an incredibly strong and vicious animal. It could have went either way. Not sure which way it went though considering who the people are - Mary and the girl.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading A lot of Brian Evenson February 25, 2014 - 1:42pm

I know I'm way late on this, but just finished reading and damn... Really dark stuff from Stephen. If I was his wife, I'd be afraid.

I thought Billy might be trying to save Mary, but for his own selfish purposes. Whatever those would have been, I wasn't really sure. I thought maybe he had some semblance of humanity left as far as his daughter was concerned, and that was why, but no. I wonder why he didn't kill the daughter.

Lot's of weird stuff going on in Billy's headspace. A second reading is def required.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon February 26, 2014 - 12:48pm

Joshua said: A second reading is def required.

I thought the same thing after just finishing it.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer March 1, 2014 - 9:13pm

I finished reading it today. I didn't read it as part of the book club, but I was very impressed. I noticed a lot of themes of duality, and particularly being on the threshold between the two sides. Life/death, sanity/insanity, innocent/guilty, killer/victim, known/unknown, reality/fantasy, identity/anonymity. There seemed to be a sort of deconstruction going on between the themes. The boundaries between them sometimes disappeared, and what I thought I know while reading became something entirely different by the end. It would have been very difficult to pull this book off, and I think Stephen Graham Jones did a remarkable job of it.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore May 7, 2014 - 6:07am

Now that everyone's gone, I can finally talk about this. haha

When reading, I kept thinking of The Wall (Pink Floyd), this isolationism and the paranoid worldbuilding that comes with it. I think when people talk about unreliable narrators from now on, this book has gotta be in that conversation. Though I like that he doesn't just whip the rug out from under you at the end; he's been telling you all along that his reality is fluid. I also appreciate that Stephen spelled things out pretty clearly at the end instead of coasting by on more ambiguity.

The things that stuck with me the most weren't descriptions but scenes. That storage unit cannibalism equivalent of being locked in a closet with a carton of smokes (the vegetarianism that resulted amused me). The opening-scene dance with Kid Hoodie, all according to plan.

I mentioned on Goodreads that I bet this novel was Stephen's psychotic response to having learned that Three's Company got cancelled. haha  That's just how his mind works: he hears some sitcom theme song and next thing you know there's been a novel written between commercial breaks.

Gustavo Lucciola's picture
Gustavo Lucciola from Sao Paulo, Brazil is reading House Of Leaves and Burnt Tongues June 12, 2014 - 3:48am

I know I'm REALLY late on this one, but I just finished and I wasn't as happy with it as you guys.
 

I do think it's great that you go along with his madness, so all the nasty things he does do not affect you, but the way the story was told, sometimes, was just a bit boring to me. Constantly talking about Kid Hoodie and the wet-dry vac made me take a really long time to finish the book.

But then came the ending. From his conversations with Mary on the phone, the book started picking up. There were a bit so-so parts after the calls, but they I was OK with them.

The whole last scene with Singer was really good, but I felt he just gave up his daughter too easily. And I did figure out he was Jack when she screamed. I think it was pretty clear there, not that I'm a great mistery solving genius. And I don't think you were meant to get it before the last pages, since they were in a big "you didn't expect this, did you?" mode.

 

Overall I would give this 3/5, but some parts would be less than that and some would definitely be 5/5.