Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Haunted House

Christopher Golden is a nice guy. I've met him a couple of times and he is always decent, friendly, graceful, interesting, and an all around good person to hang with. He's also a good guy to read if you like horror and dark fantasy. When I read his first novel, Of Saints and Shadows, I thought it was pretty good. Not great. Flawed, but lots of fun. In time he grew as a writer. Later novels like The Ferryman and Strangewood blew me away. He's probably better known for the many media tie-in books he's written, but the fact is the dude can write.

Wildwood Road is . . . well, it's a ghost story, sort of. A haunted house story, sort of. It starts with a guy driving his wife home from a party. She has, uncharacteristically, had a little too much to drink and is asleep in the backseat. It's late and his eyelids are getting heavy. As he drives through the dark and twisty country road he sees, at the last moment, a little girl in his path. He barely misses her. Being a nice guy he stops. The little angel is out in the middle of nowhere, probably lost. He gives her a ride home, which is farther than he expected and around a lot more twists and turns. She directs him to a dark, creepy old house. She says thank you and bye and leaves. He follows, just to make sure everything is okay. It's pretty late at night after all. The house seems to be run down. He knocks. No answer. He steps in. No one to be seen. But there are sounds. And there are smells. He hears the laughter and footsteps of children. He gets confused. His experience in the house is strange and dreamlike, then frightening. He hears the little girl's voice. “Come find me,” she says.

After this everything changes. Golden give us believable characters that we like and care about, then he puts them though the ringer. He injects a powerful element of creepiness into their comfortable suburban lives. This is a scary story, but not so much because of the supernatural elements. I usually don't find supernatural horror to be all that frightening because goblins don't really exist. The boogyman isn't much of a threat in our all too frightening real world. Wildwood Road is truly disturbing. What is threatened here is more than a bite on the neck, a trip to heck, or mere death. What is at stake here is the very nature of ourselves, our minds, memory, sanity, and cognition. This is more than a little spooky.

So this is a recommendation and a warning. Read Wildwood Road if you want a good horror story, but know that you may find it to be, well, haunting.

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