Below there be spoilers. Beware!
If you aren’t very good at something, you have to keep trying. I think that is some kind of a human universal, at least in the sense of the stories we like to tell each other. There is a lot of that in this blog. One thing I keep doggedly coming back to is horror. Maybe I am dead inside, but I keep reading horror books expecting to feel something. The thought of the heat death of the universe makes me quake inside. But horror books? Nothing.
I have no idea who recommended this book to me, but it got some good press online too. I am not sure why. I didn’t find it scary. I also didn’t find it particularly good.
(I should be forthcoming before I continue and admit that, due to poverty, I borrowed a version of this that may have come from the publisher, and may not have been a final copy. I am an awful person.)
The fact that I don’t particularly like kids didn’t help with my enjoyment of the novel. At the beginning of the novel there were more than a few scenes with just the kids and their issues in it and I really could not have given less of a damn about them. Idem with some of the letters to the authorities they wrote. The one where the kids confesses to socially catfishing on the internet really left me puzzled as to why it was left in there. Meh.
But then again, it may have been the writing itself. There were more than a few moments where the writing just irritated me. One of the worst ones comes along fairly early, when the scout master and one of his troops are performing an autopsy on the first host carrier. In the stomach of the victim they find a massive worm, and then the author goes on a tangent about circus, clowns, and balloons. I’m not fucking kidding. The reasoning was that the kid helping with the autopsy was reminded of balloon animals when he saw the worm. And so I started skim reading, wanting to get to the good stuff. Idem a chapter or so later when, after the troop jailed the scout master, there was a nice section about a flock of shearwaters, that I eagerly skimmed. I got the impression that if this bloat was removed the book would be a lot shorter.
(To be 100% fair, I did learn to solve something in my own writing because of this. So thanks Nick Cutter.)
Not a sign of a good novel.
All of us know about horror-movie stupidity, the phenomenon whereby a horror story is about to conclude undramatically, and to avoid this a character loses all of their IQ and makes the worst (and often, deadliest) choices. This novel has an occasion of that pretty early on. It has to, because the threat is not only fairly easy to avoid, but the protagonists know what to do to mitigate the threat in their lives. So a character does something stupid. Later on, in response to the same problems above, makes one of the children a psychopath. At that point I kind of gave up. I don’t dislike the intersection of multiple highly unlikely events, but it creates a sensation in me that doesn’t work for this genre.
So, another horror novel come and gone. I will try another one at some point, but I think it may be a while.