Dungeons

From Thea’s Dungeon…

For this episode’s unearthings: the wonderful works of Christopher Pike!

Any other Christopher Pike fans in the house? Anyone that grew up in the 80s and 90s is familiar with a few key authors that wrote young adult series’. There’s “Francine Pascal” of Sweet Valley Twins fame. There’s R.L. Stine (and I’m talking BEFORE the Goosebumps phenomenon, with the Fear Street books). R.L. Stine has been called the Stephen King of young adult novels, but I beg to differ–if anyone deserves this title, it is the master of YA horror, Christopher Pike.

Christopher Pike is actually a pseudonym of Kevin McFadden–the inspiration for the pen name is from the original rejected pilot episode of Star Trek (OS), or you’ll recognize the name from episodes “The Menagerie” (I & II), as the unfortunate paralyzed and scarred captain with the cool wheelchair (my dad and I would affectionately name the aliens of Talos IV as “the buttheads“).

Beginning in the 6th grade (12 years old was a huge year for me and obsession building), I discovered this marvelous author and never looked back. It all began with Bury Me Deep.

THE DEAD BOY WOULD NOT GO AWAY.
Jean is on her way to Hawaii for a week of fun in the sun. But the vacation gets off to a gruesome start. The boy sitting beside her on the plane suddenly chokes and dies. Jean tries to push the incident out of her mind when she arrives on the island, but that’s impossible. Part of the reason is because Mike keeps coming back to her in her dreams. Horrible dreams filled with cold blood.

Two of Jean’s friends are waiting for her in Hawaii — Mandy and Michele. They have already made friends with two young men who teach scuba diving at the hotel — Dave and Johnny. Jean and Johnny quickly become friends. But there are problems in paradise. Dave and Johnny have recently lost a partner in the ocean. No one knows how he died. No one can find his body. But then Jean finds Mike’s body. It isn’t where it’s supposed to be, and it seems as if it’s still got some life in it.

Ok, so this blurb reads a little cheesy. But I can guarantee you that this book is a stunner–filled with supernatural horror, as well as some good old fashioned ‘whodunit’ thrills. It is a ghost story, and a damn good one–upon a recent reread, it still stands the test of time.

Bury Me Deep was only the beginning–and while it is a great book, it’s by no means my favorite, or even one of the best.

I’m gonna make a big statement here and put it out in the universe–Christopher Pike is one of the most under-appreciated authors of our time. In my humble opinion, he has ideas that make Stephen King’s imagination look pale and meek in comparison (and this is big stuff from me as King is one of my favorite authors). Indeed, some of the newer YA paranormal/horror books ain’t got NOTHING on Christopher Pike.

My favorite Pike book, and in my opinion the eeriest of the lot.

Returning home one day, Roxanne and Pepper find their small town–and surrounding towns–empty. Finally they find three other teens and realize that all five are each connected through the death of Betty Sue, the plain, shy girl who committed suicide only three months before. Betty Sue had written stories about them, stories of hate, revenge, and death . . . in a dead world.

This is a hefty story–of heartbreak and hate, but also one of hope and love ultimately. Roxanne narrates the story as a serious girl in a small town, who falls in love with a boy named Pepper. As fate would have it, Rox gets pregnant and she decides to have an abortion. After the procedure, however, Rox and Pepper return to a dead town–devoid of all life, except for three other people. And then, one by one, each dies a terrible death until Rox finally sees what she must do. This book is, in a word, atmospheric. It is poetic; it is terrifying. And it still is one of my favorites. On a sidenote, I used to be into the band Garbage, and the song “A Stroke of Luck” was my theme song for this book. I know it’s weird, but Shirley Manson’s growly voice over the track…it’s perfect for the atmosphere of the novel.

Lest you think Christopher Pike is a one-trick pony that only writes about high school kids with thriller aspects, let me assure you that this certainly is not the case. Mr. Pike is an extremely versatile author–covering the usual high school drama but in unexpected ways (fits of jealousy leading to death in Last Act, cocaine addiction and murder in Kill Me Softly, friendship, love and revenge in the Final Friends books), but also focusing on the mythological (The Immortal), monsters (Monster, The Last Vampire series), and heck even futuristic science fiction (The Tachyon Web, The Starlight Crystal).

Monster has arguably one of the best opening scenes in a Young Adult novel ever.

It began with blood.

It would end the same way.

Angela Warner was on the couch finishing her third beer when Mary Blanc entered Jim Kline’s house carrying a loaded shotgun.

Mary proceeds to blow away the school’s linebacker and head cheerleader, only to be stopped from finishing her rampage by best friend Angela. As it turns out, Mary was right…an ancient evil has possessed them, and it hungers for human flesh. Angela finds out the hard way.

They did it for kicks.
Five young thrill seekers in a stolen spaceship on a joyride to the stars. But one of them had a more dangerous plan–to blast beyond the Tachyon Web, the iron boundary that barred mankind from the worlds beyond.

There they found danger, excitement and heart stopping adventure. And, on a strange alien world, one of them would also find love.

Oh how I love this science fiction story. The characters, the political intrigue, the romance…when I read Linnea Sinclair today I am reminded of my first foray into SFR with Christopher Pike. Eric has been rejected from the Academy–his lifelong dream to serve abruptly called to a halt. So, the responsible young man allows himself to go on a joyride with his more reckless friends, and they jump beyond the tachyon web–the web said to protect their planet from the threats that lay beyond. But instead of threats, they find a dying civilization, a peaceful people whose technology is far inferior to humanity’s…and these people have been left to die. With their ship damaged and low on the equivalent of coolant, they are forced to board the alien vessel, and Eric finds that his conscience cannot leave these people to die. Of course, a hot alien chick is part of the deal.

While on a spaceship that travels at near light speed, Paige Christian’s work is to study the changes on earth throughout two centuries; when a disaster befalls earth and she returns, she finds an unimaginable future.

Paige is given an incredible opportunity–to study humanity on board a time capsule of a spaceship. The Traveller circles the solar system at near light speed, and a day upon the ship is equivalent to 10 years on Earth–her mission is to study the changes for the equivalent of 200 years. But, something goes horribly wrong on Earth, and the crew of the Traveller are condemned to a future far beyond their initial mission date. This is a story of death and rebirth, and a journey of the human soul above all else. It is beautiful, it is haunting, it is one of the best stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Highly, highly recommended.

And, the last Pike book I will leave you with.

In a hospice for the terminally ill, five teenagers, who meet every night to tell each other scary stories, make a pact that the first of them to die must try to contact the others from beyond the grave.

This is the most emotional, the most raw of Pike’s work, in my opinion. Five teenagers wait for death, and they tell each other stories each night to pass the time. One member leaves the hospice to live their life, while another dies. And Ilonka remembers past lives glimpsed in dreams and memory, and a lost love that might not be lost after all. It is a story about hope, and love beyond death. This book made me cry for its tragic beauty. Again, highly recommended.

If you never had the pleasure of reading Christopher Pike, I beg of you, try to track down some of these titles. The books sell for dirt cheap on Amazon for all they are out of print, and they are priceless.

17 Comments

  • Katiebabs
    August 20, 2008 at 4:29 am

    Be still my inner tween heart!! Christopher Pike and RL Stein is every tween’s must read!

  • Mollie
    August 20, 2008 at 5:22 am

    OH man! I LOVED Christopher Pike! I still have all the books packed away somewhere. I think there was only one on that list that I hadn’t read…The Tachyon Web one. I think some of my favorites were the Remember Me books. There were several of those weren’t there? I liked Whisper of Death as well. Man oh man. Those were the days ! I remember liking one of his adult books as well….Sati? Or something of the like.

    And there was one where one of the characters killed people with a hammer or something….? Perhaps I’m making that up…..

  • talia
    August 20, 2008 at 6:44 am

    I shall be trying to bring back as many of these as i can for you.

    Whisper of death scared the CRAP out of me when i started reading all of your old books. Literally I couldn’t sleep at night because i was so scared.

    The Bury Me Deep cover that we have is different from what’s on your post though! Remember yours was with a skull and an eel coming out or something a la death eaters? (hehe)

    Awesome post. I think I’m going to read Immortal again tonight (one of my favorites, i mean the crushed glass thing has got to be the best idea for murder of all time)

  • Daphne
    August 20, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Wow, I must have just missed these, they sound like something I would have gobbled up. I am definitely going to have to check them out!! Maybe I’ll have a month of October YA horror event. 🙂

  • kmont
    August 20, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Ahhhh!! The Pike! I read a few of those.

    I just can’t remember which ones. I have the memory capacity of a goldfish.

  • li
    August 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Oh, this brings back memories!

    I remember I sneaked off with one of my older sister’s Christopher Pike books (wasn’t meant to read them) and promptly had nightmares that night. LOL – completely served me right, and it was a good few years before I even looked at any of his books again!

    Once I got over my fears, definitely good reads though.

  • Ana
    August 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I have never even heard of these books….they probably never made it to Brazil. (yes, that is my favorite excuse).

  • little alys
    August 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    OH MY GOSH!!!

    Christopher Pike! Yes, YES! He takes it all. Oh, his books. They were so good. So good. Another author I read along those lines was L.J. (Lisa Jane) Smith.

    RL Stein’s original Fear Street Trilogy was the BEST.

  • Kate
    August 20, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    I think I remember “Weekend” – the one with the girl wasting away and all the friends get together one weekend, but they’re being terrified by someone who thinks someone is killing the girl? Boy, that’s vague. It’s been years. I remember the song “Blackbird” was in it somewhere – the dying girl used to be a good singer and that was her favorite song.

    There was another one I remember where there were two girls, best friends, except one actually hated the other so she faked her own murder to frame her “friend.” It involved jumping off a cliff and when the narrative switched to the faking-her-murder-girl jumping off the cliff, something went wrong and she broke her leg. I remember sort of retching a little bit at that scene. Quality stuff, except I can’t remember the name of it. Anyone?

  • icedtea
    August 21, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Witch, Bury me deep, Whisper of death – those covers are a blast from the past. 🙂
    I used to own a bunch of Christopher Pike books, I wonder if they’re still around. My parents may have sold them at a garage sale. I’ll have to find out, since they’re out of print.

  • Jill D.
    August 21, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Oh my gosh Thea!! You have taken me back. I believe I was 12 when I read my first Christopher Pike novel. It was Chain Letter. After reading it I thoroughly went out and gobbled up every book of his I could get my hands on. Wow, I wonder if they would still stand the test of time. I see rereads in the future!

  • Thea
    August 22, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Katie–I had SO MANY RL Stein and Christopher Pike books. They were addictive. Highly, highly addictive.

    Mollie 🙂 YES! Some of his adult fiction is still in print–I read The Cold One. I think Sati is right? Oh oh oh and the one with the hammer–yes i remember that one too!

    Talia yessss bring them all to me! My precioussss! And I tried to find mycopy of Bury Me Deep with the cover online, but I can’t find it anywhere! Looks like we had a rare printing 😉 And you know how I feel about The Immortal 🙂

    Daphne–I highly recommend these! Even rereading these books, they are still wonderful…my only complaint is that they are too short!

    Hee Kmont 🙂 I feel your pain!

    Li–hah! *points at Talia* See what happens when you steal the older sister’s books? You get nightmares. Hehehe.

    Alys–dude, I loooooooved Fear Street! Definitely a huge fan 🙂

    Kate! Yes exactly 🙂 Weekend is the one with the girl who had been to a party with her friends, and was inadvertently poisoned with insecticide causing her kidneys to fail–and the weekend in Mexico invites all her friends that were present to try and get the truth out of them. And yep, Robin (that’s the girl’s name) singing Blackbird is a definite sticking point in my mind too!

    As for the other book, there are two it could be. “Gimme a Kiss” is the first one (that’s the one on the boat where the girl fakes her death) but I think the one you’re thinking of is another Pike story that actually draws from Gimme A Kiss called Fall Into Darkness (in one of the courtroom scenes, the novel Gimme a Kiss is actually used as evidence–mentioned en passant of course 😉 )

    Icedtea–oh hell yes 🙂 Bust into the old boxes, at least keeping a few of these on hand is a must!

    Jill–go for the reread! I found they actually have lived up to my loving memories 🙂

    So many Pike fans! Whoda thunk it? 🙂

  • Kate
    August 22, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Yes! Fall Into Darkness – that’s it. I can see the cover in my mind now. Thanks!

  • Erin
    April 22, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    I love Christopher Pike! I recently cleaned out my bookshelf to donate books I woudln’t re-read and ALL of my Christopher Pike books are staying. They are so great and I re-read them every few years or so. I agree – completely underappreciated and more than a few movies have liberally stolen his plot ideas – I know what you did last summer was a blatant rip off of one of his books. I’m so glad there are other Pike fans out there!

  • Kristy
    August 22, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Loved the Pike books! I still have mine! I couldn’t part with them. I should reread them sometime. But my to be read list is huge as it is! glad to see some love for Christopher Pike and RL Stine (I was a fan of Fear Street too!)

  • Jinx
    March 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Oh, man. I got hooked on Christopher Pike when I was in the 5th grade. First book of his I read was ‘The Last Vampire”. I remember that it was so imaginative and strangely compelling – and even though you shouldn’t logically sympathize with Sita, you find yourself doing so anyway. Actually, that series has just been film-optioned, so any fans might want to dust off their copies! With any luck, that will start to garner him some of the appreciation he deserves.

  • brandyt
    August 29, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Does anybody remember a book that had a bus on the cover (i think) ..cant remember a lot about the book..that doesnt help does it..but i remember at the end of the book the main character turns out to be the killer..i wish i could remember i wanna read it again! i had every rl stine and pike book when i was a teen and my mom made me give them away…wish i still had them! if anyone know what im talkin about….that would be great! 🙄

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