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Old September 22 2008, 10:00 PM   #184
Spaceman Spiff
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Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

I've never seen any of the Psycho sequels. Are they any good?

Between the last post and this I've read Covenant by John Everson. I got it as part of my final shipment from the Leisure Horror book club (they're releasing them on Kindle now, so no more reason for them to take up space on my shelf).

I'm still a little torn on recommending it. It's pretty well-written, more so than the usual Leisure fare, which makes sense, since it got Everson a Stoker for Best New Novel.

From the description:

Joe Kieran has found that unearthing the truth for a newspaper can be painful, and telling it, heartbreaking. Hiding from his past big city exposÚs in the quiet coastal town of Terrel, he stumbles upon a web of mysterious teen suicides that somehow connect a ring of five women. Is there really a malevolent presence inside Terrel Cliff that holds all of the town in thrall as Angelica, a fortune teller, suggests? Or is there a murderous covenant between five women to sacrifice their first-born? When Angelica is kidnapped right under his nose, Joe suspects that there is more at work in Terrel than a dark, tragic streak.

Deep beneath the remains of a long-demolished lighthouse on its tragic cliff, Joe discovers Terrel's secret history and salvation. And in his desperate bid to save two women, he forges a new covenant, one that puts his own soul in deadly danger.
It starts out fairly run-of-the-mill, but it's a mill that I like: A stranger moves to a New England town during the crisp Autumn months and slowly discovers its dark secrets. It should be its own sub-genre at this point, but I like those kinds of stories.

It's a pretty good story, but there's a point in the middle where it shifts to some pretty dark sexual territory. Everson does a good job of keeping it horrifying without skewing towards titillation, and it's certainly disturbing, so in that respect, he's wholly successful. In other words, there's some rape in this book, and it's upsetting each time it happens. I think that's why I'm on the fence about recommending it; I tend to prefer a bit more fun in my horror, and once you introduce rape, well, it gets much more serious. And since the plot of the novel centers on a demon living in a cliff, you expect it to be a little silly instead of treading such dark waters.

Then again, you could argue that if such creatures are real, those are just the sorts of waters they'd wade in; corruption of the flesh and whatnot.

On the whole, I'd say it's more thumbs-up than thumbs-down. It all depends on your squeamishness level. There's no question that the book is crafted well, and that the author achieves what he sets out to do. And he manages to take that oft-used setting and do something so drastically different with it, so that's a credit, too.

Since then, I've been plugging at a story at a time in Stephen King's Night Shift, and I've also just started on the sequel to Ghost Road Blues, Jonathan Maberry's Dead Man's Song. The great thing about a sequel like this is when you so enjoyed the characters in the last outing that it's fun just to see them again.

It also takes place right where Ghost Road Blues left off, so it's still early October, which is fitting as we get closer to Hallowe'en and this thread comes full circle.
"Love means never having to say you're ugly."
- Dr. Phibes
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