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Old School Wednesdays: The Wicked Heart by Christopher Pike

Old School Wednesdays is a regular Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

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Title: The Wicked Heart

Author: Christopher Pike

Genre: Horror, Fantasy

Publisher: Archway Paperbacks / Hodder Children’s Books
Publication date: First published 1994
Paperback: 244 pages

He did not want to kill. Dusty Shame was a high school senior, and a serial killer. Already he has murdered three young women, and he has more planned. Yet Dusty did not want to hurt anybody. There was something inside him, or perhaps outside him, that compelled him to kill.

Sheila Hardolt has lost her best friend to Dusty’s insane attacks. It will be her task to probe the clues Dusty has left at the site of each of his murders. Clues that will point her into the past — to a time when a large portion of mankind lost all sense of decency.

There she will find the seed of Dusty’s evil compulsion, the Wicked Heart, and the reason why it did not die the first time it was destroyed.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): paperback

Review

This is another entry in a series of Old School Wednesdays posts, brought to you by the amazing folks who supported us on Kickstarter. As one reward level, backers were given the opportunity to pick an Old School title for one of us to read and review online.

So it has finally come to pass that I get to read my second ever Christopher Pike novel. If you have been around long enough you might recall that a long, long, long time ago – all the way back to 2009 – I read my first Christopher Pike novel, Monster. That was back when I was still a baby blogger, scared of horror novels, when I apparently called female characters in books “biatches”? NO, past-Ana, NO. *hangs head in shame*.

Upon re-reading that post I realise that I seem to have enjoyed that novel more than I recall? I also said I would read more Christopher Pike novels but never got around to it. Oh well, such is life.

I think it’s probably better to start off by saying that I do not have the benefit of nostalgia when reading these books and they are not beloved to me – unlike Thea, for example, who read a bunch of Pike novels growing up, something that I believe many of our readers who grew up in the nineties might share. I wonder if this is a similar nostalgia-inducting collection like the novels I used to read back in Brazil in my early teens from a series called Vagalume? What would it feel like to revisit those? But I digress.

What I wanted to say was: oh, boy, this was ridiculously bad. SORRY. Clunky dialogue, so much description and info-dump, and improbable developments all account for it.

SPOILERS AHOY FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS.

The novel opens already spoiling the culprit for us, with teen serial killer Dusty Shame (what a name) ready to kill his third victim. He has been targeting young women – “innocents” – and he knows he has to kill more. Even though he doesn’t really want to commit these murders, there is a voice telling him to. But he makes a mistake when he kills his third victim: a girl named Nancy who happened to be his schoolmate and Sheila Hardolt’s BBF.

Sheila is having a bad time. THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, Matt, just broke up with her and she has been hoping, waiting that he will change his mind and ask her to come back. Sheila is very smart and also a crime investigation enthusiastic? Who becomes entangled with the investigation around her best friend’s disappearance and possible murder – she is given actual investigative tasks by the actual lead investigator of the crime who TELLS HER all the SECRETS around the investigations? They really did do things differently in the 90s, I guess.

Up until a certain point, I was ok with the book being an entertaining mess of ridiculousness and gore (the description of the murders and violence Dusty commits are SUPER graphic). But upon the main reveal behind the voice that Dusty hears, I noped out of the book so fast I got whiplash. Let me tell you of this book’s true moment of Wtfuckery:

You see, Dusty’s crimes are not exactly new. The “voice” has existed for a long time and it can be directly traced to the crimes of Nazi Germany by way of Heinrich Himmler and his girlfriend Frau Scheimer being empty receptacles of evilness. Since it was Himmler who devised the Final Solution, this terrible act can be explained by his otherworldly evilness. *eye twitch* . This can be extrapolated to an explanation that allows for Himmler and his girl to be singlehandedly responsible for the Holocaust and the Nazi crimes that were committed because they were empty vessels of EVIL. Further, Sheila and the elderly detective/former soldier (don’t ask) are some kind of angels of goodness that can sense the evilness and destroy it?

…. Did this book just explain away the entire institution of Nazism as well as one of the worst criminals in history of mankind? Yes, it did.

Did it also create a false, gross darkness vs light dichotomy around Nazis? Yes, it also did that.

It also made Dusty Himmler’s godson, another empty vessel down the line, working for the voice who happened to be coming from his Mother, also an empty vessel, who only became an empty vessel because of her Alzheimer’s.

Hold on, let me call my old buddy Picard:

This is when the book crossed a line from benign ridiculousness into a Twilight zone-esque Nightmare of Nopeness.

Rating: 2? 3? Is “Nope” a rate?

1 Comment

  • Gerd Duerner
    May 10, 2018 at 4:53 am

    Never read any Pike, missed that window, but I always want to when I see these covers, they make me feel so nostalgic. I did pick up some R. L. Stine Fear Street this year, but I’m positively too old to properly enjoy those now.

    Looking up Vaga-Lume, some of those look quite fun.

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