October is one of my FAVORITE months. The weather starts to cool, but we don’t usually get snow, the shorter daylight hours become impossible to ignore…it’s all about transition. And then there’s HALLOWEEN.
Every year, S and I watch a marathon of scary/thriller/horror movies from October 1st to 31st in celebration of the season, and this year will be no exception. Last year I blogged movie reviews, and I might this year too…but when I started to think about great blog topics for this month Of All Months, I wanted to do something different. I tried to think of what DEFINED my love of Thrills and Chills…and Christopher Pike jumped out at me!
…and then I screamed!
For those who may be ~unfamiliar~ with The Great Mr. Pike, he was known as the Stephen King of Young Adult Fiction in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is also famous for being completely mysterious – no one knows much about him personally, and good luck trying to find out (his name is a pseudonym taken from Star Trek - FTW!). It’s part of his ~mystique~. He was a MASTER of teen thrillers and science fiction, always pushing the envelope. I devoured these books in middle and high school, always checking the stores to see if a new one had come out. Recently, I reread some of them (I still have ALL my original copies), and I’m so impressed that not a single one seems formulaic or trendy, even now. Many of them deal with paranormal phenomena, but often times, the scariest things in them are simply human beings.
My absolute all-time favorite Pike book is Master of Murder. Observe the completely amazing 1992 cover art (it was redone later, but to me this is the only cover):
The book is about an eighteen-year-old guy named Marvin who is a bestselling author of teenage fiction, but NO ONE KNOWS IT except his sister and his agent. Marvin needs to keep his identity secret, but he starts to realize that the stories he’s been writing – murder mysteries - are actually true. And then he receives a fan letter that reads: “I know who you are.”
People have speculated that MASTER OF MURDER is semi-autobiographical for Mr. Pike. The first time I read it, I became convinced that he WAS a teenaged novelist, and that if I met him, he might realize that I loved writing too and go out with me!! I no longer think this is true…okay, the part about him being a teen novelist, though I’d still LOVE to meet the mysterious Christopher Pike.
Does this cover not SCREAM amazing to you? The 90s computer! The dead girl! The chilling font! The guy tapping away at his novel! <3
One of the more disturbing Pike books I’ve read is Whisper of Death. This one definitely has a supernatural element to it, though it is hard to define – which is one of the BEST and scariest things about Pike – how uncomfortable he makes you feel. You don’t understand the threat, and that is SO terrifying. !!! Anyway, those two terrified-looking kids are Roxanne and Pepper. That hooded death-figure on the road may or may not be Betty Sue, a dead girl with a GRUDGE.
Roxanne is pregnant, so she and Pepper leave town to try and solve their problems (I LOVE how vague the back cover copy is about this). When they get back, however, the town is deserted except for three other kids Betty Sue wants dead.
Christopher Pike is a magnificent storyteller, and one of his great talents is weaving stories into stories. Betty Sue left stories behind that she’d written about each of the kids – telling how they died, before it happens – and of course things unfold exactly how she wrote them! One of the greatest things about Whisper of Death is the ambiguous ending. I still couldn’t tell you exactly what happened, but it wasn’t happy for anyone – except maybe Betty Sue, who we find out, was also pregnant when she died. I’ve read this book several times, and it still bothers me. Which is why Mr. Pike is a master of the craft.
The Midnight Club has stuck in my mind for fifteen years. I reread it recently, and cried all over again. Yes – I CRIED over a Pike book. That’s what a gifted author he is. The Midnight Club is about a group of teens in a hospice (I KNOW – depressing). But Pike makes you realize teens in a hospice are still TEENS, and they act like them. A group of five meets at midnight to tell stories (more stories within story – FTW!), but as each of them gets sicker, they start to speculate about ~the after life~ and make a pact that the first of them to die will try to make contact–from beyond the grave. Eeee! I LOVE this book. It feels so well-researched, so compassionate…and so hopeful, despite the theme.
I guess a post about Christopher Pike wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Remember Me. Except that I am sooo disappointed I couldn’t find a bigger picture of the cover than this. You can hardly see the ~ghostly hand~ on the balcony railing, not to mention poor Shari’s artistically-arranged body on the ground – without a trace of blood in her gorgeous blonde hair. Remember Me is about Shari Cooper, a murdered girl whose ghost sticks around trying to find out who pushed her from that balcony at a party. The story is compelling, with lots of interesting familial backstory and baby-swapping, but the ending totally makes the whole book. I might as well ruin it, it’s so…NOT anything I ever expected. Shari’s (not dead) brother is diabetic, and his crazed girlfriend-slash-actual-sister tries to kill him by using his own syringe to inject an air bubble into his veins. Shari’s ghost slips INSIDE her brother’s veins to stop the air-bubble from giving him a heart attack. I mean – WHO would have thought of that? CHRISTOPHER PIKE.
There are TOO MANY excellent Pike books for one blog entry! However, I found out while writing this that The Last Vampire series is being re-released. Which isn’t a huge surprise considering the YA market right now…but it isn’t one of my favorites. I think one of the most impressive things about Christopher Pike is that he could write fantastic stand-alone thrillers. Remember Me became a series, so did The Last Vampire, Final Friends, Chain Letter, etc… and I’m not saying I didn’t buy every single one and enjoy them. But I remember and hold dear the single, sweet, intense books like Road to Nowhere, Spellbound, The Eternal Enemy, The Immortal, Die Softly, Last Act, and who can forget the very FIRST book: Slumber Party.
So on the first day of October, the spookiest month, a month of transition, I pay humble tribute to Christopher Pike. For keeping me up reading at all hours as a teen, for making me afraid to turn out the lights, for blowing my mind with compelling tales, and for instilling an everlasting love of YA that continues to shape me as a writer. ~*~