Something strange is happening in the small town of Holburn, but most people aren't aware of the force that tunnels beneath the land. An episode of bullying decades ago unleashes a force that cannot be stopped; one that hungers for the living. Damien's brother, Alan, is intrinsically tied to all that is happening. Will Damien live long enough to find out what is going on?
In his first novel, Ian Woodhead has created a horrific landscape where plant life intermixes with human life to generate demon-like creatures driven by an unseen force. Immediately drawn in by the opening sequence, I was quickly thrown off-track and confused. The first section talks about a past event with two brothers, but in the next section, the brothers seem to have traded lives. I never quite understood whether it was an error in writing, or a plot device I didn't catch. When the story is read the whole way through, there are some great concepts that are very much in line with some of the best horror out there. Unfortunately, those great concepts are utterly obfuscated by the actual writing, which would greatly benefit from a full-scale editing/revision process. Missing punctuation, redundant words, and run-on sentences make some of the sections difficult to understand. There is plenty of action and gore to attract fans of this genre, but the jumps between times and scenes add quite a bit of confusion to the storyline. At one point, I just gave up trying to understand when and where things were taking place, and just read to find out what happened. I wasn't engaged (I couldn't even figure out where I was or what was going on at times), but I watched the story unfold, much as I would watch a B-rated horror flick. I was detached from the actual events, but I still wanted to know what was going to happen.
Although there is some closure to the story in the form of an explanation of the events that began the horror, I felt there were still too many threads left dangling. If they actually did tie in, the need for extensive editing and revision masked any connection for me. Additionally, I felt the character development wasn't complete. Some characters sort of blended together. Although I felt as though I had a decent grasp of Damien, I never did get a clear understanding of Alan, and I think there was a lot that could have been shown about this central character. Jennifer could have used some more depth, and I never quite "got" Tony. More clearly defining the scenes and the happenings in each scene may have helped bring out the personalities of the individual characters. At times, I thought the author was much more focused on the description of the horror than the development of the characters or the plot. I think that developing the characters with some additional scenes to set the stage would have strengthened the horror and suspense aspect of the book.
A compelling plot that suffers in its execution, this story will still have appeal for enthusiasts of the genre. I would like to check out some of the author's short stories to see if his intriguing concepts shine stronger in a short story format.
2 /5 stars
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