Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Chasing the Dead

DeadChasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber

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As I’ve mentioned before, I like a good horror novel.  The problem is, the bulk of horror novels are laughably dumb.  I remember flipping through a used bookstore catalog years ago, and the owner of the shop had summarized most of the horror paperbacks into one sentence.  In one of them, the summary was (and I kid you not), “Giant lobsters terrorize a New England coastal town.”  And if that wasn’t the actual quote, then it’s awfully close.

In Chasing the Dead, the main character is, at one point, attacked by some larger-than-average lobsters.  I had been thinking already that this book wasn’t going to be that horror novel I wanted it to be, but once the lobsters started attacking her, I knew that it was just going to turn stupid.  And boy howdy, did it.

Sue Young is a single mother who receives a phone call from a man who has kidnapped her daughter.  To get her daughter back, she has to take a convoluted route across New England and do exactly what he tells her to do.  So, she does.  And that pretty much covers the basis of the story.  A lot more happens, but the hook of the story is that this woman is driving to recover her daughter from this kidnapper.This is a first novel, and it smacks of it.  The main character is fairly thin and nondimensional, and the antagonist is about the same.  One drives the other through the story, and very little interferes with that setup.  If any other characters become a part of the story, then you can be sure that they’re going to wind up dead.  This isn’t a spoiler by any means; it’s just one of those stories that has a single impetus, and anything else is irrelevant and, more importantly, disposable.  There were also a lot of things that didn’t make much sense (the scene in the strip club was a little odd), and the basic premise of the story wasn’t even explained all that well.  Plus, there were some places where I questioned the motivations of the protagonist and the antagonist.

Also, to be a horror novel, I can’t say that there was anything in the story that really creeped me out or scared me.  There was more gore than atmosphere (which is always a bad sign for me), which might play a large part toward my detachment from the events.  I think the author relied too much on the “child in peril” story to keep us sympathetic to the main character, but there was a lot of the same things happening in the narrative.  She’d become angry or frustrated, and yell at the kidnapper on the phone.  He’s threaten her daughter, and then she would straighten out and continue on the story.  That was the only thing intended to keep us connected to the woman, and it was the only thing keeping the story moving.  It was too much of a singular plot, and too thin to sustain any significant interest.

I did finish reading the novel, but that’s not saying too much — it’s a brief 196 pages.  I suppose I felt compelled to finish the story, but to be honest, it was more of a sense of “How dumb is this going to get?” and not enough “What’s going to happen to the main character?” sort of compulsion.

This is getting a lot of good reviews, so it’s possible that I’m missing the point, but I want a horror novel that transcends the usual premises and tries something new.  I’ve always felt that Gothika was another bad horror story, that relied too much on cliches to be truly effective, but a lot of people liked it, too.

If nothing else, it’s brief.  I was able to finish it within 24 hours.

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January 18, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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