I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)
First, a warning to anyone who might consider this book that it involves quite a few "triggers": women being captured and raped, violence against a dog, domestic violence, and harm toward children.
I thought this was a good book with horror found in more than the title ghoul. In fact, the ghoul is really the least of this novel. Humans can be awful, but they're also complicated. As you can see from the warnings above, Keene hits on a lot of sore subjects for people. If one thing doesn't bother, surely another will.
At first, I thought the lessons to come would be too heavy handed, due to the issues revolving around a couple of the characters, which just felt blatant. The way they're laid out at the beginning made me roll my eyes. But as the story progressed, I felt like the characters were well built, each of their stories coming into play with the main story line. Keene has a grasp on the lives of boys, the things they care about, the things they worry about, their thought processes, etc., and this shows in the book.
The story here is a lot deeper than a monster in a graveyard. As I said above, it's really about humanity, the ills we visit upon each other, and the ways we cope. Especially young boys in shitty situations (and one in a pretty normal situation, who takes it as any young boy would).
I almost wish the epilogue hadn't existed, but it meant something, it was stark and honest, so it had its place. Don't expect a happy ending tied up in a neat bow.
My top ten remains the same.
My Top Ten:
1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
5. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
6. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.
Broadswords & Blasters is seeking pulp fiction. 2000 to 5000 words. Pays $15.
Vanity Projection is seeking humorous and satirical short pieces. Pays $5.
The Writing District holds a free writing contest very month. Up to 3000 words. The winner gets $50. Deadline is the last day of each month.
Poetry Foundation is seeking poetry. They pay $10 per line. Also accepting visual poetry now.
Flash Fiction Online is seeking flash fiction. Open genre. 500 to 1000 words. Pays $60.
Check out my horror short story collection, Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations, available in paperback and e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Nook, Smashwords, and Apple. See my Publications tab for more information.
Have you read this book? Have you read anything by Brian Keene? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? Have you been submitting or querying anything?
May you find your Muse.