Sunday, August 24, 2008

35. Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Dark Harvest pictureExcept for Stepen King, I was never a huge fan of horror. But in recent years, with the influence of Meezly, Fantasia and other friends, I'm getting more and more exposed to it. One of those friends, Jocelyn, whom I met through gaming, is quite into it. He ran a very fun Unknown Armies, (which would some would say is the RPG that epitomizes contemporary horror) campaign that I played in and he lent me Dark Harvest. I have no idea how Norman Partridge came onto his radar, because I've never heard of him before, but if this book is indicative of his skill and style, he's good.

Dark Harvest is a tight little read. It's about a small, isolated midwestern town in the early '60s. Every year, since as long as anyone can remember, the tradition is to lock up all the boys of the ages of 15, 16 and 17 years old for the three days before Halloween and starving them. They are then released on Halloween night, while the rest of the town locks itself away (except for those left to guard the food sources). The boys' goal is then to hunt down and kill a living Jack-o-lantern before it enters the town church. The boy who does this is allowed to leave town and his parents get a new house and a car. I've already told you too much, though most of this is laid out in the first few chapters. It's just that the unfolding of the story is a big part of the fun of this book. Don't worry, though, as there is a lot more to be revealed and I found the revelations to be quite delicious.

It's a grim, brutal tale. The town is closed and scary. The kind of place anyone would want to get away from. But nobody can in the way many people don't get out of a small town. But here it is even more sinister than that. What I particularly enjoyed was the way the plot unfolds. Partridge doesn't hold back any secrets in order to artificially maintain suspense. He's got such a great set-up that he doesn't need to. Secrets revealed just lead to more conflict and greater connection to the plot and the protagonists, making you want to turn the pages. It's a dark tale and he doesn't pull any punches, but it's not unnecessarily brutal or sadistic, a rare combination. Furthermore, it's all story, one that keeps moving forward, another thing that is hard to pull off.

It's a short read, really almost a novella. Highly recommended.

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