Every now and then a book falls through your letterbox that reaffirms your love for the genre. Sadly these books don't come along quite as often as I would like. So when Ken Goldman's freshman publication with Horrific Tales came into my possession I was slightly apprehensive, could a relatively new publisher keep their track record for producing quality books?
Of A Feather, is one of those horror stories that just seems to work better set in the USA, this is a small town horror with a small cast of characters, not quite a coming of age tale so beloved of our American friends, but with just the right amount of teenage angst to dip a toe into that sub genre.
Socrates has just graduated from High School, ignored by the majority his classmates, and even bullied by some of them, the future isn't looking to bright for him. However thanks to his love for birds, and his infatuation for the cute girl who works in the local Bird Shop, Socrates summer might just brighten up.
We all know that this isn't going to be the case, otherwise I wouldn't be reviewing this book here. So when you throw in a sick and twisted bully, a bully who has a heart of gold, a shy Socrates whose affinity for our avian friends goes further than you can imagine, and a healthy dose of ancient Native Indian folklore, you just know this book is going to be one hell of a read.
What makes this book so special is the way in which it straddles two generations of horror writing, while still maintaining its own voice, and more importantly being fresh. While reading this book I was reminded of a time when Graham Masterton ruled the shelves. Of A Feather shares many of the elements that made Masterton's horror novels so brilliant in the 1980's. A small cast, in a small town battling and ancient evil, to many, this may sound like old hat, but to me this is horror heaven.
Ken Goldman, brings this all into the mix wonderfully, while at the same time ensuring that this horror novel remains fresh and his voice unique. The prose is tight and punchy, and builds up the tension perfectly. One of the things that makes the book fresh, unlike those horror novels of the 80's is the fact that Goldman takes time with his characters. These aren't just cookie cutter characters that only exist to carry the narrative, they change, grow and develop over the course of the story in a way that just feels right. Even Socrates' sister who plays a small but important role in the narrative's development, has grown by over the intervening years of the story.
I also loved the Ying Yang connection between Socrates and one of his bullies, as one redeems himself the other forfeits his soul. It's this sort of grey area characterisation that lifts this novel far above the trappings of its parentage.
As for the narrative, this is one of those stories that has a natural almost organic sense of momentum towards it gruesome conclusion. Peppered with some extremely intense descriptive passages, some of which involve animal cruelty, this book will keep you on the edge of the seat, right up to it's pitch perfect ending.
To paraphrase horror's most famous crow, "More, More More"
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