Wizard and Glass

November 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

glassWizard and Glass by Stephen King


A few years ago, I saw a comment online where someone asked why there had been so much outrage over the ending of The Waste Lands. Sure, it was a cliffhanger ending, he said, but the next book picks right up from that point. What’s the big deal? What he didn’t know, reading the books so long after their original publication date, was that Constant Readers had to wait six years to have that cliffhanger resolved. I would have been okay with the ending had King started the next book ASAP, and we got the answer in a year, but six years? Just no.

Wizard and Glass does resolve that ending, and then gives us another glimpse at what’s happening due to the Tower failing, and introducing a (sorta) new villain to the mix through Randall Flagg, but the bulk of the story is Roland’s first task as a gunslinger, which not only defines his character, but also introduces him to the idea of the Tower itself. It’s also a love story framed around an investigation, and both parts of the story are intriguing and compelling (much more so than the framing story that is actually about the Tower). The usual King traits are there — the characterization, the easy-going style, and the plot slowly developing over the course of hundreds of pages — and if the outer bits are a bit ridiculous (The Wizard of Oz? Seriously?), the inner parts are worth the read.

The central problem here, though, is something I can’t address without spoiling this book (and the whole series), so turn away now if you’re still new to the stories.

The entire series ends by coming full circle, with Roland stepping through the door at the top of the Tower and starting his journey again, with the famous line: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” It suggests Roland’s story is infinite, with him reliving the journey over and over again. Does it change? Does he go through the same process every time, or does he find new people to draw into Mid-World on his journey? Has it happened since the beginning of time, or is this his first time reliving the journey? Does he always complete it, or does he sometimes fail, and if he does fail, does it stop the cycle, or does it begin again, regardless? When word came down that The Dark Tower (the movie) would be a sequel to the series, I was giddy with the idea that we would finally get answers to these questions.

The important part of all that, though, is: Where does Roland’s story begin? Is he limited to this loop, or did he live a life previous to that opening line and the the loop begins when he pursues the man in black across the desert? If the loop is everything Roland experiences directly, then are the events of Wizard and Glass an implanted memory to make him the person he is? If so, then how much of the entire series is true, including the question: Is the Tower even under threat to begin with? If not, then what’s the point of the series and all its interconnected works, other than to support Roland’s own manias?

It seems like a ridiculous waste of energy and pages to say that this is all something that never happened outside of Roland’s memories, but at the same time, King was still two years away from his near-fatal accident that inspired him to finish the series and insert himself into the book. Had he been entertaining the idea of making the series cyclical by then, or did that only come to mind after his accident? That the story comes full circle feels like a direct response to King being a character in the series, but who knows other than King? I’m not asking this rhetorically; has he ever said whether the cyclical nature of the story was always his intention?

(All of this speculation is based on my not remembering all the details of the seventh book, just the broad stroke of how it ends. Maybe these questions will all get answered along the way.)

When I first read this book, I rated it five stars because it felt so powerful. I rated it based on the central story (e.g., not the Dark Tower part of it), but I also rated it out of context with the entire series. I still find the story of Roland and Susan and Alain and Cuthbert to be the best part of the book, though I also see that readers are divided on which volumes they prefer, the personal ones or the ones that advance the mythology. I’m firmly on the personal side of that divide, so Wizard and Glass is still among my favorites of the series.


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The Waste Lands

November 21, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

wasteThe Waste Lands by Stephen King


There’s a curious thing about The Dark Tower that I’ve never really noticed before: Much of the mythology and legend of Mid-World and End-World and What-Have-You-World exists outside of the series proper. I think it started with Insomnia, which fell between this book and Wizard and Glass, and then started leaching out into everything else King wrote. As such, the books in the actual series so far touch on some of what defines Roland’s world, but the bulk of it resides elsewhere.

What’s left, then, in the series proper is to tell the stories of the main characters — Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake. We get some of Roland’s story in the first book, and Eddie’s and Susannah’s stories in The Drawing of the Three, and now in The Waste Lands we get Jake’s story. It’s hinted at in the first book, but here we learn the details of his life and what draws him to the Tower and Roland’s world (quite literally). King writes best when he writes personal stories, so these have been among the best parts of the series for me.

Jake’s story only takes up half of the book, with the second half comprising their journey to and through Lud to find Blaine the Mono. This half was much less interesting than the first half, because we go from the personal to the journey, and I was surprised that, before re-reading the series, I had forgotten about this part of the journey to the Tower. I had expunged this part of the story from the chronology all together, putting the trip across the bridge right up next to the ka-tet boarding Blaine. I remembered it all as I was re-reading it, but it was such an unmemorable part of the story I had blocked it, partly because it has nothing at all to do with the Tower.

By now, we understand what the Tower is, and what it means to protect it, but so far the story hasn’t been about the Tower, save to establish its importance. All the journey through Lud does is support the idea that the world has moved on, and that it shares some similarities with our own world. King has already suggested this, but here he drives the point home with the George Washington Bridge and “Velcro Fly” by ZZ Top (which, unfortunately, dates the story quite a bit).

I’ve been making a concerted effort to keep each book in the series in its place in King’s ouevre, seeing how it sits in context with this other works, and I see this volume was published a year after the revised, uncut version of The Stand. It shows,  because his inclusion of the Tick-Tock Man suggests some similarity to the Trashcan Man, in name if not in character. Sure enough, King uses this book to introduce the idea that Randall Flagg exists here, too, though this is before King retcons the story to make him Walter, too (though I expect it was on his mind by now).

So far, my ratings now reflect my ratings from when I last read them. I suppose this is good, since it suggests the stories have held up well, but I’m starting to see some of the holes in the story. Reading the first book strongly suggests King didn’t have a firm idea of where he was taking the story (even without his afterwords in all the books telling us, it’s clear when you look at it in context to the entire series), and I expect the further I read, the more I’ll find his other books encroaching on the story. I know I’ll see further connections to The Stand in Wizard and Glass, and to ‘Salem’s Lot in Wolves of the Calla, and the concepts of the Crimson King and the Breakers will come from Insomnia and Black House, respectively. I’m not wild about the series being so dependent on books outside of it, but I’ve accepted it.

Despite all of that, The Waste Lands comes from King’s best era, and it shows. It wasn’t until The Dark Half and beyond that it started to feel like King was writing without a destination, and the start and finish of The Waste Lands surrounds that point. In that way, the book is a perfect balance of his two styles, for better or for worse.

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The Gunslinger

November 15, 2017 at 7:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

gunslingerThe Gunslinger by Stephen King


This will be my (at least) third reading of The Gunslinger. I read it a few times in high school, and then again when Wolves of the Calla came out, and I figured re-reading the preceding books would be a useful exercise. At that time, I read King’s revised version, which annoyed me. I don’t begrudge him correcting the small continuity errors, like removing the magazine he reads because King later suggests paper is as valuable as gold, or adjusting Jake’s age to match his age in The Waste Lands, but he went and retconned a lot of other parts of the story to match up with what he wanted it to be by the time Wolves was published. It annoyed me, enough so that when I decided to re-read the series leading up to the movie, I opted to read the original edition, warts and all.

With the series, I want to review them in light of the total story, and in the case of The Gunslinger, I also want to review the book as a series of stories, as they were originally published. The first section, “The Gunslinger”, is the only one in the book that can be considered a short story. It establishes the gunslinger’s character (he remains unnamed here), and presents him as something old and revered. The man in black is also unnamed, and is presented as someone magical and mystical. The story serves to build the world they live in, and makes suggestions that this is our world in a much later time, and presents a showdown between the gunslinger and the man in black, though they don’t meet in person. It’s a good story, by itself, and even though it suggests a larger story to come, King could have ended it here and had a compelling, interesting story.

It wasn’t until two years later that King returned to this story, publishing “The Way Station”, the story that introduces Jake and gives us our first look into Roland’s life before the start of this book. Roland is named in this story, and the Tower is mentioned for the first time. King continues to build the world, making further indications that this is our world, or at least one similar to it, but there’s not much conflict happening here to define it as a standalone story. Instead, it serves as a start to the larger, overarching story that would become The Dark Tower.

“The Oracle and the Mountains” (and the remaining two stories in this book) were published the same year as “The Way Station”, and continue to serve as a setup for something larger. King expounds on that plot, and shows an indication that he’s already plotting out The Drawing of the Three, since the Oracle makes a prophecy about those he will draw into his world. This is also the story where we learn more about Jake and Roland’s relationship, and it’s the time when Jake comes to know he will die on this journey.

That story segues straight into “The Slow Mutants”, the longest story in the book, and nothing at all like a standalone story. Roland tells his coming-of-age story in the middle of the story, which could serve as the plot here, but it doesn’t do much to progress the story, other than to give further insight into Roland’s character. It foreshadows Wizard and Glass, in that it’s more a story about Roland than it is one of the Dark Tower. The parts of the story that take place out of flashback do more to build the world and cement it as ours in the future (though, honestly, his use of “Hey Jude” is a subtler, more effective way of doing it). There were some odd word choices in the similes here, especially when you consider that the story is told from Roland’s perspective: once he compares something to baseball, and another time he references deep-sea creatures. Does Roland’s world have either of these things? My guess is no, so why would he think this way?

Finally, the book closes with “The Gunslinger and the Dark Man”, the story that paves the way for The Drawing of the Three. The prophecy from the third story is reiterated through the Tarot reading, and even though King’s afterword suggests that he didn’t have clear ideas of how the story would proceed, he at least had ideas for the second book. It doesn’t define the Tower, nor the Dark Man, both of which he defines later in the series to suit his purposes. Here, the Dark Man is Walter, but I know later he’ll become Randall Flagg. It’s more retconning and hand-waving, even though I feel like King manages to pull in all of his points well enough to support his story, but to suggest he knew where the story would go at this point makes as much sense as suggesting George Lucas knew what he was going to do in Return of the Jedi when he was filming Star Wars. He may have had ideas, but there’s no way he had the details of the plot formed, especially when the later books reference 9/11 and King’s own auto accident as major plot points.

I liked this book when I was younger, but it isn’t the strongest book in the series. It sets things up for the rest of the story, but it has a few foibles due to the uncertainty King had regarding the story at this point. It’s where everything begins, so of course it’s required reading for anyone wanting to read the story, but for new readers, I’d suggest getting the revised edition to read first, and then coming back to read this if they want to see how they compare.

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American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition

October 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

godsAmerican Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman


I first read American Gods in 2001, right after its release. I remember surprisingly little of it. I mostly remember images, scenes, quotes, and ideas, with the plot going right out of my head. I just finished watching the television show, and figured I should refamiliarize myself with the entire story, and was surprised to see there was a “preferred author’s text” edition. Naturally, I decided to read that version. I toyed with the idea of re-reading the original printing, but after looking up the answer on Google, I discovered the changes appear to be small, incidental ones that make little difference in the plot, along with a new foreword and afterword, as well as a deleted scene that appears outside of its context in the story.

The story is about Shadow, an ex-con who has just been released from prison a few days short of the end of his term when his wife dies in a car accident. On his way back for the funeral, he meets an odd man who wants to hire him as a bodyguard/errand man/assistant sort of position. This encounter is the first in a series of odd, otherworldly encounters with a series of characters, none of whom are what they appear to be.

The story is also about gods, religion, faith, and belief. This, I think, is the reason why I remembered images, scenes, quotes, and ideas more than anything else: The bulk of the story is about ideas. Gaiman peppers the story with old gods in the same way Kim Newman peppers Anno Dracula with other fictional vampires. The novel is its own Easter egg hunt, enough so that I was hitting Google every time a new god showed up (and enough so that I can see real value in an annotated edition of the book).

When I first read the book, I was impressed with its premise, but less so with its execution. I still don’t see it as the quintessential Gaiman book (I still point to Stardust for that), but my take on the novel improved with this read. I think it helps to have seen the show, since it helped anchor some of the characters in my head. They’re not as difficult to place as, say, the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, but having Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle in my head definitely helped (even if their physical appearances in the book were different).

I saw some new aspects of the story, too, which is typical of a re-read. Knowing some of the secrets that were to come later in the story helped me isolate some of the foreshadowing and uncover the clues. Most important, though, was the way Gaiman wove the Native American gods into the story. I missed that the first time around, which is surprising, since there’s a recurring theme and character who makes it pretty obvious.

Plot-wise, the story still seems a bit thin, especially for a 750-page book, but there’s a lot to pass through on the way to the conclusion. The middle of the book feels circuitous and almost pointless, but it’s Gaiman’s way of introducing us to more gods and tying them to the main theme of the novel.

I’ve read a lot about how the showrunners have gone off-book, but I was surprised to see how faithful the show has been, even with its changes. The biggest change seems to be in Laura, Shadow’s wife, and Mad Sweeney, a six-foot-tall leprechaun, in that they expand their back stories. It seems like they’re also playing around with the plot, though, based on the conclusion of the first season, which doesn’t exist at all in the book. I’m intrigued to see where it goes, though, especially considering that Gaiman is also one of the producers of the show, and presumably signed off on the changes that have been made.

I’d recommend American Gods to anyone with an interest in mythology or anyone who hasn’t yet read anything by Gaiman. Given that this edition exists, I don’t see why someone wouldn’t choose the expanded edition over the original text, unless they’re just curious to do the comparison. I expect a lot of people will be reading it, thanks to the show.

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Mucho Mojo

August 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

mojoMucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale


Want to feel old? If so, consider this: Mucho Mojo was published twenty-three years ago. Twenty-three. That’s about how long ago I started reading Joe Lansdale, and while I doubt this was my first foray into Lansdale’s fiction, it was my first ride with Hap and Leonard, upon which I’m still a passenger.

I decided to re-read this book for the same reason I re-read Savage Season: I just finished watching the latest season of Hap & Leonard, the television show, and I wanted to see how they compare. What I remember of my original read was that I pegged the murderer as soon as he appeared in the story. I remembered other details, some of which were at odds with what was on the show, but it turned out I was misremembering some of those details. I think I was remembering details the way I wanted them to be, not how they were.

The show and the book differ in a lot of ways, but the main plot is the same across both. Leonard’s uncle, Chester, has died, and after inheriting Chester’s house, Leonard stumbles across the body of a child. Suspicions drop on Chester as a child-killer, but Leonard doesn’t believe it, and the story is Leonard and Hap investigating the murder to find the real killer.

The rest of the details, though, are different: MeMaw’s sons are different between the show and the book; Leonard doesn’t get arrested in the book, and neither is Hap a suspect of the murders; and Beau’s character doesn’t even exist in the book, meaning that subplot was never a part of the story. Incredibly, both the book and the show accomplish their own thing, and both are moving stories with similar themes. In the end, the difference in the details isn’t significant enough to change what makes the story so effective.

Re-reading the book helped me put the book in a better perspective, too, since my initial rating (two stars) was based on how easily I figured out the whodunnit part of the story. Knowing that when I went into the book helped me better appreciate the rest of the story, which is one of race and class and all the social complications that come from it all. Hap and Leonard being who they are, all of the stories touch on that to some degree, but here it was much more pronounced. The show followed that same theme, but I raised my rating on the book a full two stars because I was able to see the forest this time around. Plus, who I was twenty-three years ago is pretty different from who I am now, which I’m sure played a part in my appreciation.

But, man, twenty-three years. That’s a long time. I was just barely into my twenties, and I think Lansdale’s hair was still dark when this book came out. Fans of the show should definitely read the book, too, though I recommend it to anyone who likes a crime story with a good theme.

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June 29, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

riptideRiptide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child


I first heard about the legend of Oak Island when I was nine or ten, and it’s been a low-level obsession since then, enough that I’m honestly surprised when I discover people who haven’t heard of it. It has pirates! Treasure! Booby-traps! And it’s been around for over 200 years! How have people not heard about it?

Riptide is a fictionalized account of that legend, and this isn’t my first time reading the book. That would have been fourteen years ago, during a vacation at the beach. To say I loved the book is an understatement; combining the legend with being at the beach and tearing through the book in a day or two meant I loved the book. Preston and Child did a great job of translating the story into a ripping read, so when I needed an audiobook for a long road trip, Riptide was at the top of the list.

Of course, combining a re-read with an audiobook means I’m more likely to see the foibles of the story, like the paper-thin characters, the overuse of adverbs, and the story telling more than showing. There are also the technical elements of the story that I questioned (does earth really slow radiation like the authors claim? Would a doctor really not be able to identify radiation poisoning based on so much evidence?), but I still enjoyed the hell out of the story. My affection for the legend of Oak Island apparently knows no bounds (I’m also watching The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel, though I’m behind on it).

Look: If you haven’t heard of the legend of Oak Island, you should research it. There’s a good article located here, though you could run a Google search on “Oak Island money pit” and find a ton of other resources. If that kind of story intrigues you, you should read Riptide. It’s not a perfect work, but it’s damn good, despite its issues.

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July 25, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

coralinesCoraline by Neil Gaiman


Coraline is one of my favorite books. I’m an unabashed fan of Neil Gaiman, so it’s hard to be objective about his work in general, but Coraline has remained a favorite of mine since I first read it. The story is a remarkably well-done horror tale (spookier than a lot of adult horror, even), which goes a long way toward me liking it, but the fact that I listened to this as an audiobook shortly after reading it for the first time didn’t hurt, either.

Gaiman is wonderful as a speaker in general, but when he reads his stories, he’s even better. He knows the story and the characters, and he knows better than anyone else how the story should flow, where the emphasis belongs, how the characters speak, and what the proper pace is to keep the listener engaged. I think there’s more to it than just that familiarity — I’ve heard Stephen King read his own work before, and it’s missing something in the telling — but it’s certainly a benefit.

Thanks to the movie, most people already know the story of Coraline, but as is often the case, the story for the movie is much changed from the one in the book. The broad strokes are there, and the director did a great job of bringing the characters to life, but nothing compares to the story as Gaiman reads it. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading it yet, do yourself a favor and listen to it instead.

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Miracleman: The Golden Age

March 18, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

goldenMiracleman: The Golden Age by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham


By the time Alan Moore finished his run on Miracleman, he had pretty much said all he could about the superhero as god. Once the character had instituted his Utopia, once he had served as humanity’s savior, there wasn’t much left to say about the character. He opted to end writing the series, handing it over to Neil Gaiman to continue. Gaiman had established himself as a writer already with Sandman, and his writing style often focused on humans living among god-like beings. He was the perfect choice to pick up the series after Moore had established his post-modern take on the character.

As such, where Moore focused on the superheroes, Gaiman focused on the humans who lived among them. The Golden Age is a series of short stories, each looking from a different perspective at life in this new Utopia. We see a man whose search for perfection in beauty keep him isolated, a woman whose superhuman daughter creates more barriers than connections, and the capriciousness of the superheroes’ whims and how they affect real people. Each story is tied together by the end of the arc, and Gaiman includes throwbacks to events in the original series to anchor them as part of the series, but each story is different from the series that begat them.

The stories have less impact than Moore’s did, but that’s not to say they’re not effective. Moore and Gaiman have two distinctly different writing styles, and two different approaches to mythology. Where Moore wants to examine and deconstruct, Gaiman wants to examine and reflect. Despite their differences, the two styles complement each other well, because the human stories are the logical progression from the superhero stories.

With the Miracleman stories back in print, Gaiman has plans to continue writing the arcs that he had initially pitched when he took over the series from Moore. The Silver Age and The Dark Age will finally see print, after years of limbo and litigation, and we might even see new stories beyond Gaiman’s original vision. It will be interesting to see how the stories will compare to what’s already been published, since the Neil Gaiman of today is different from the Neil Gaiman of twenty-plus years ago. Still, for over two decades, the story has remained incomplete, and I’m excited to see how he will conclude the series.

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March 16, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

flyingA Dream of FlyingThe Red King Syndrome, and Olympus by Alan Moore, et al.


I first read Miracleman long after I had read Watchmen, and around the time when I decided to read more of Alan Moore’s work. Given that Miracleman is basically Watchmen v0.1, I wound up reading the works out of order, but I liked them enough that when the series was finally getting reprinted last year, I started buying them up to re-read them all together. Since The Golden Age finally saw print last month, I decided to sit down and make my way through the series again.

Ultimately, Watchmen is Moore’s magnum opus. It takes the ideas that he started examining in Miracleman and Swamp Thing and forms them into a complex analysis of comic book heroes, comic books, and politics, all while telling an engaging, compelling story. It’s just a shame that it was the first of Moore’s works I read, since all the other stories he’s told using these ideas pale in comparison to it.

syndromeMiracleman was Moore’s first attempt at deconstructing the superhero mythos, and there’s no denying that he did a great job with it. When a hero comes along with abilities that make him god-like, it’s logical that they would become like gods. Moore takes another version of Superman and does just that with him. When someone with that kind of power exists, and sees ways to improve the world, why wouldn’t he do it? Why wouldn’t he step in and say “This is how we’re going to do things, because if we don’t, I have the power to make it happen regardless”? Once the heroes are public, and their strengths are common knowledge, how would one avoid that kind of conclusion?

The opposite side of that coin is someone with that kind of power without any kind of moral compass, which Moore also addresses with the character of Kid Miracleman. That character is one who has internalized his suffering, blaming others for his own pain, so when he has the opportunity to take his revenge, he does so, without remorse, regret, or concern over anyone who gets in his way. Since there are only a handful of others who can survive against such a superhuman onslaught, several innocents are killed in that revenge. Moore doesn’t shy away from showing the horrors of such an act, but neither does he shy away from showing the aftermath of it. Some story arcs would approach that story, end it, and then move on. Look at how The Avengers ended, with widespread destruction and (presumably) thousands of deaths. It’s all ignored to focus on the victory of the heroes. And it’s not at all realistic. Moore attempts to make it realistic, and he succeeds.

olympusThe origin story for the Miracleman Family is a little ridiculous, which can be forgiven, since Moore was working within the confines of the original origins of the characters and attempting to create a new mythos while keeping the existing canon in place (see also how he did the same to Swamp Thing). The explanation he creates makes about as much sense as it can, given those constraints, and it makes as much sense as other superhero origin stories.

As good as Moore’s run on Miracleman was (and continues to be), it’s simply not as good as Watchmen. Considering, though, that Miracleman is still a four-star story when compared to the five-star story of Watchmen, Miracleman is still a story worth reading and examining. I just wish I had read them in the proper order so I could have experienced Moore’s development over the course of all his works.

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March 3, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

bogMoonbog by Rick Hautala


What’s creepier than a bog? Half forest, half lake, it’s a part of nature that’s managed to strike a balance between life and death and still survive. It’s a perfect setting for a horror novel, and I was as excited to read this now as I was when I first read it in 1995 (I had forgotten pretty much everything about this book since then).

Sadly, Moonbog isn’t a supernatural story. Our main character, David, returns to his small hometown to settle his mother’s will (which, for some reason, is always capitalized as “Will” in the novel), and while he’s there he gets caught up in a series of murdered and missing children. Of course, the eerie bog right on the edge of town is a central part of the story, which adds to the atmosphere, but I felt like there was a lot lost by not having some mystical creature roaming the bog.

In Moondeath, Hautala avoided relying on the whodunnit aspect that takes up a large portion of other werewolf stories, but in Moonbog, he goes back to exactly that. The big question of the novel is who’s abducting and killing the children. Hautala gives us a couple of options as to the killer’s identity, making some of them so obvious as to make us think they’re red herrings, while also creating enough suspicion to keep us from writing them off completely. The reveal was satisfying, but getting there was a bit of a slog. He drew out the pursuit part of the story, making it lack the tension it needed. Also, Hautala’s narrative style is fine, but he tends to spend a lot of time on incidental details that don’t add much to the story.

I’m seeing the same problems with Hautala as I did with Richard Laymon, though, as he doesn’t do much for his female characters. David’s girlfriend is portrayed as a one-dimensional harpy, and aside from the mothers of the missing children, she’s the only female character who gets any attention in the book. There’s no real reason as to why she acts the way she does, and we get very little of the story told from her perspective to allow us to sympathize with her frustration. Apparently Hautala just needed a screeching foil for his main character, and he gave that role to his girlfriend.

That problem could be due to his characterization, which felt weak. His antagonist was just an evil guy, whose motivations are explained away by another character making suppositions about the other person, and that’s done in just a few pages. Even his protagonists were shells instead of realized, so when people died, there was no investment to make the deaths impactful. They were just there to service the story, and whatever connections could have been there just didn’t matter.

In the end, the potential for the story outweighs its execution. This is the second horror novel I’ve read that has used a bog as a central setting (the other being The Man in the Moss by Phil Rickman), and both of them were lacking. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a fascination with bogs, and I build up the idea of the story to impossible levels. Regardless, I’m still waiting to read a good horror novel that features a bog.

Unfortunate Musical Connection: “Moonchild” by Iron Maiden (again)

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