Friday, May 15, 2015

Small town horror, mainstream thrills


By Heather Herrmann

Publisher: Hydra

Pub. Date: May 26, 2015

Rating: 2 & 1/2 out of 3 stars

When I read a blurb on a book that compares it to Stephen King, I cringe a little. Sometimes it seems like every horror author wants to be Stephen King. I cant blame them. I want to be Stephen King. But those public relation drones in the advertising division of that mainstream publishing company wants you to be Stephen King because that is where the big bucks are. If I ever do write the great American horror novel, I plan to have a provision in my contract that says, "DO NOT COMPARE ME WITH STEPHEN KING!"

But the blurb on Heather Herrman's novel, Consumption does compare her to Stephen King...and Joe Hill...and the lesser known but in the same ball park Sarah Langan. That will probably be fortunate or unfortunate depending on the reader. But there is no doubt that Consumption is dependent on a formula for mainstream horror. We have a couple with issues going into a situation that will make or break them. There is a nondescript small town with a mysterious event about to take place, in this case the Black Squirrel Festival. We have a cast of dozens, all with their own level B issues. And finally, a dark and seemingly invulnerable terror. I've seen this all before. Yet Consumption starts out promising. There is a slow but nice build-up. We get some tragic happenings that foreshadow worst to come. For the first half of the novel, I was envisioning a scenario that raises the book out of the formula and into something different.

What went wrong? For starters our promised monsters called the Feeders didn't impress. Essentially they are a take-off on zombies; smart, hard to identify but still zombie-like nonetheless. With the nice build-up I expected more. Then there is the cast of dozens. No one really stood out. John and Erma seem to be the most obvious protagonists with their relationship issues and the faint glimmer of hope that we see at the beginning. But nothing really develops from there and we are thrown into a soup of extras all vying for the brass ring. When we finally find the catalyst that knows what is going on we have crossed the point of no return and are headed for "don't care."

Yes, Consumption is formula but that doesn't mean it can't work. Robert McCammon's first few books were all formula yet there was something about the writing that jumped out at you and made it live. I just don't see that here. While Herrman had a great idea and can write very well, the story overall becomes weighed down with too much filling, not enough uniqueness and not enough awe. It is mildly entertaining but eventually forgettable. There are some good, maybe even great things in it but just not enough for me to recommend it.

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