Entries Tagged 'Brian Keene' ↓

Dark Hollow: A Horror Reader exclusive review

Keenehollow Spring has come with a vengeance to LeHorn's Hollow, Pennsylvania. While walking his dog, mystery author Adam Senft stumbles upon an enigma of his own, when he encounters his pretty neighbor engaged in a lewd act with something that is not human. Soon enough, he discovers that evil surrounds the entire town. The woods themselves are behaving strangely, the sound of pipes is on the air, women are going missing, and some supernatural force is drawing upon the not-so repressed desires of the townspeople, threatening to transform LeHorn's Hollow into something of a hell on earth. Only Adam and his neighbors seem to have an inkling of what is going on around them, and it falls upon their shoulders to try and make things right.

The setup for Brian Keene's latest novel is certainly reminiscent of other small town horror stories (it certainly draws upon such works as Stephen King's Salem's Lot, Robert McCammon's Bethany's Sin, and Bentley Little's Dominion). However, there is more to Dark Hollow than its setup. The execution is where this book truly shines, particularly in several strongly evoked characters (human and otherwise), which seems to be the trademark of Keene's fiction.

The protagonist for this novel (and the first person narrator) is Adam Senft, a mystery novelist who managed to succeed in his chosen career against all expectations. While not in the league of say James Patterson, Senft has nevertheless succeeded in such a fashion that he can live comfortably as a full time novelist. His family life is not quite so successful, alas. Though happily married, he and his wife are unable to carry a baby to term. A series of miscarriages has left them childless and, worse, ruined their hope for having children. There is a melancholy to Senft's narration, and a certain fixation on the sex lives of his neighbors (which is only natural; it's a product, this reader perceives, of envy).

There is a lot of sex in this book, from literal acts to metaphoric ones to a general mood of sexual frustration. Yet, while there are lewd moments to the work, the subject is for the most part handled with maturity, craft, and wit.

Thematically speaking, this work hearkens quite closely to Keene's novel Ghoul. The supernatural antagonists have similar motivations and are, in fact, presented as nearly identical: both are the last members of an ancient species, minions to Greater Powers that exist outside our time and space (Dunsany and Lovecraft via Keene's Labyrinth mythos). These two works are reflective of each other (bookends of a sort), though where Ghoul dealt mostly with coming of age, this one is more about accepting the responsibilities that come with living within a community.

One place I would like to have seen a bit more information than is offered is in the town itself. While ably evoked in early chapters, this reader is a fan of the microcosmic creations of King, Braunbeck, Grant and other horror writers. With a first person narrative, we are confined to only the one perspective, and therefore are shown only a slice of the town. While further novels (including the upcoming Ghost Walk, a preview of which is found in Dark Hollow) will undoubtedly further detail the town and its hinterlands, this reader has seen enough to know he wants more, more, more (blame me for being American; alas, even instant gratification takes too long). Beyond both this "lacking" and the egregious flaw of far too many characters whose names begin with the letter "C" (Cory, Cliff, Carl, et al.), this novel delivers exactly what it promises, a personal horror story.

There are plenty of references to Keene's Labyrinth mythos (as well as his other works), but these details are kept in the background. While picking up on these is not necessary to understanding Dark Hollow, they offer choice nuggets to Keene's longtime fans. These are details in the corner of the canvas, so to speak, pleasant enough to behold by the general observer but a real treat for this author's constant readers.

Dark Hollow by Briane Keene

336 pages

Leisure Books

Published February 2008

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