Chad Orzel warned me about possible repetitiveness, so I was prepared for Jonathan Carroll's The Land of Laughs to be astonishingly similar to Sleeping in Flame -- in fact, I was kind of looking forward to it, since Sleeping in Flame was a damn fine book.

But that's not quite what I got. Sure, there are some elements in common between the two books, but the commonality wasn't overwhelming. If I'd not had Chad's warning in mind, I might not have thought twice about the similarities; with it, I only noticed the enormous dissimilarities.

The biggest difference between the two books is the unquantifiable one of tone. Sleeping in Flame was a meditative, reflective book, and was fundamentally about human relationships; The Land of Laughs was creepy and eerie, and was about the disconnect between appearances and reality. This tonal difference completely outshadowed any similarities of plot or characterization.

It also meant, regrettably, that I liked this book less. I have a strong aversion against horror -- I really just don't get the appeal of the genre. Back when I was younger, I was firmly of the opinion that if lots of people liked something, there must be something good there, so I tried reading Stephen King. I read a half-dozen of his books, enjoying maybe one of them (The Stand, which is more post-apocalypse science fiction than horror), before I realized that perhaps other people just enjoy different things than I do.

Carroll's book isn't straight horror, but it's shaded too far in that direction for my liking. Objectively speaking, it's probably nearly as good as Sleeping in Flame, which I adored; but for my tastes, it's decidedly sub-par.


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