Patrick C. Greene
Kensington Books/Lyrical Underground
General Fiction (Adult), Horror
September 4, 2018
ATTENTION reader. I am in a mood! Please take note of reason that follows.
A person needs to be careful when openly comparing themselves to those determined by the general public to be great.
In fact, don’t do it.
As stated, that’s for that general public to declare.
Same goes for storytelling. If the first page declares that what I am about to read will be comparable to works by King and Koontz, I have no choice but to measure by that. Literally zero choice!
You put those names in my head. After all, these are memories of teenage and early twenties reading. These are fond memories.
My girlfriend did not believe that 6 inches was 9, even though I said it as a statement, and nor should a reader take such bold statements as truth when starting a new book.
Save your opinion until the end and make your own comparisons. Maybe this opinion will be satisfactory, or (as in my girlfriend's case)…not.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! The pumpkin harvest is complete, but another harvest is about to begin. Not that of the oblivious orange orb, but that of a reaper’s red rage.
Ember Hollows is a small town that goes all out for Halloween. Founded by a Wilcott Bennington who had some inclination for possible worship toward the Roman god Saturn. Apparently, there was some unpleasantness but no details were given by the end of the book, so I am inclined to believe this fact does not really matter to the story.
The first third of the book, as introductions to its characters are made, was rather hard for me to take in. Through my life at times, I would wonder if I had some sort of attention deficit problem or if I just take in too much coffee.
Turns out it’s the coffee, if it were the former, I don’t think the beginning would have been much trouble for me.
In what I could only guess was a method to quicken the pace of the story, we are exposed to all the towns leading stars by small snippets of information. Quick one or two thoughts that abruptly stop, switching to some other person. To make it worse, some of these quick glimpses are wrapped in a flashback for that character. I wouldn’t say its confusing. I understand the words in front of my nose, but I would have sincerely liked to been given a chance to be with one of the protagonists long enough to get attached. I did not.
Let’s give you some perspective.
Ever have a child grab the TV remote and start channel-flipping? Just have them pause long enough on each program to get your attention then boop! to the next one? There is a point where you explode. That kid is NOT touching the remote for the rest of the night!
...Sorry. It’s the future now...
Ever have someone on the controls of Netflix? They’re going hard to the right, and shit is spinning. You think your going to vomit. You don’t like it.
For the “good guys," we got a 26-year-old recovering alcoholic, lead singer of a local punk band (it’s not totally punk in my opinion). We have his young teenage brother, having problems with a group of intelligent nerd bullies (I very much liked this). We have a young girl, love interest to said teenage brother plus younger sister to a psycho. There’s the Reverend, also a recovering alcoholic (this time old enough for the word 'alcoholic' to feel legit, not that I’m saying a 26-year-old can't be one) plus the reverend's sidekick, spirit-channeling church pianist.
For the “bad," we got ourselves the psycho, molested by priests, locked in a shed 364 days a year and fan of Halloween. The group of “nerd bullies,” very original and delightful antagonists. There’s the Reverend's assistant intent on poisoning the town with hallucination-inducing Halloween candy. And last but not least a possible ghost, throwing hard candy at unsuspecting reverends and playing tricks on the pianist.
There we have it. All the mixings for a basic King or Koontz novel. Just instead of Derry, we have a small town called Ember Hallow. The healthy number of bad guys ensures the potential for some interesting plot twisting, and the protagonists all seem to have some potential for good old personal struggle.
My hopes were not fulfilled. In fact, after finishing, I immediately called my girlfriend at her work and apologized for ever giving her hope regarding my endowment when we first met.
Character growth was at a zero.
Any and all protagonists ended just how we found them. The punk star showed up drunk after his first stressful event. His little brother didn’t even get the chance to have a showdown with his bullies. The Reverend was still a reverend.
The “nerd bullies" I knew I would love didn’t even come close to making it to the climax.
The psycho killer was enjoyable, to be honest. I mean, if it were a Stephen King book he would have had some supernatural aspect revealed later on, but this is, without a doubt, NOT a King book. The problem with this psycho though, was that he didn’t have much depth, just kill kill, fun fun, trick or treat.
The Reverend's assistant fits in nicely. Had a plan. I understood her motives and enjoyed her struggle as she would run into obstacles on her path to cleanse the unworthy from the town.
By its finish, the story had a couple of decent characters and…oh wait there was a ghost wasn’t there…right. That’s how important the thing was to the story; forgot all about it. Well turns out it was the ghost of the town's founder, Wilcott Benror-whatever.
My problem is when you have a plot with all this potential and so many places you can take it, but only a fraction of it is realized, it’s like you have all these choices on the path before you and you decide to sit and eat a sandwich.
The channel flipping dispersed near the middle, thankfully, starting up near the end but appropriate to the plot's speed.
And I’m reeeally pissed about the nerds. What a waste. I mean, come on, intellectuals who use their wit to torment and buy muscle through doing homework for the football goons. How could an average kid overcome this enemy? I guess the author didn’t know either so he got rid of them before anything could come of it.
Now there are more tales of Ember Hallows on the way. My opinion can always change as a new perspective is introduced. There is a teaser for the sequel that involves the ex-boyfriend of the reverend's assistant, breaking out of jail with the help of his werewolf gang.
So who knows.
(And yes actual f***ing werewolves with absolutely no hint or foreshadowing to such things existing in the Red Harvest universe….may as well be god-damn orcs from Mordor.)
This one gets 4 out 10 jack-o-lanterns.
Almost the worst Dean Koontz book I’ve ever read. Didn’t even have a talking dog, or the word “penultimate.”
Thank you very much!