The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector
Bantam – 1986

Last Thursday, I was sitting in bed after a stressful day’s work, trying to read a dense Thomas Ligotti story. I read the first paragraph about 3 times then gave up. I like Ligotti, but he’s not easy reading. I needed something a little less demanding. I flicked through my kindle and settled on The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector. Part of the reason I chose this one was that I thought it was a short novel, maybe 180 pages. Also, I knew that this book is often heralded as the first splatterpunk novel. The splatterpunk I’ve read has all been pretty straight forward, so this seemed like a good choice.

First off, it’s not short. Paper copies of this book run to almost 400 pages. I was a bit annoyed when I realised this, but I was already invested, so I plowed through.

Otherwise, this was pretty much what I expected; vampires in New York. There’s lots of violence and dated/cringey pop culture references. (There’s a section in which one of the characters paraphrases a scene in The Shining.) I think that I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had been younger when I was reading it.

Also, while I’m sure that the authors did not intend this book to be homophobic, there’s something about the nonchalant way that the characters make fun of their gay friend that will probably rub a lot of modern readers the wrong way. The guy who is getting made fun of is one of the good guys, and everyone actually likes him, but he is repeatedly called a faggot by his coworkers. He’s not integral to the plot and clearly only included for comic relief, and this made the playful abuse he suffers a bit uncomfortable to read. This book was written in the 80s though, and it ultimately depicts the gay characters as likeable, useful members of society, so I don’t think it’s time to retroactively cancel Skipp and Spector.

So, yes. This book reads like it was written for 1980s teenagers. It’s a bit dumb and quite dated. However, I think I already mentioned that I only read this because I needed something easy to digest before bed, and I have to admit, this did the trick. It’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I had previously read Skipp and Spector’s The Scream, and I reckon that The Light at the End is actually a better book. Yeah, there’s still too many characters, but this one has a more focused story line. I’m not going to rush out to read more Skipp and Spector collaborations, but I’m definitely not going to write off the ones I already have on my shelf/kindle.

2 thoughts on “The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

  1. I know what you mean about Ligotti. I can’t get on with his stories. Clearly massively intelligent and skilled, but the tales are more about his philosophy rather than a narrative. The first one I tried was a book called The Amazing Resurrection of Dr Frankenstein and other Gothic Tales which all seemed like a very short precis of how he might re-imagine classic stories. I asked my old flatmate of yore David Tibet what he saw in his friend and collaborator and he didn’t reply. Ouch.
    I’m now trying the Penguin Songs of a Dead Dreamer/Grimscribe and find it just doesn’t entertain me, the same problem I had earlier. I can see where pulp like Skipp/Spector would be light relief from that milieu.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ligotti is definitely not for everyone, and I have the same problem sometimes reading his stories; mind wanders off, and I realize I’ve read a whole page without comprehension. Speaking of splatter punk, I really enjoy another author who is credited with being the originator of this sub-genre: David J. Schow. My first encounter with a collection of his was DJStories. None of the stories or novels I’ve read by Schow are juvenile, but a few are on the gross side. He has a great sense of humor, often relating to Hollywood and Los Angeles.


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