Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Nate Kenyon
Published by Leisure Books
There are many types of horror. Vampires (the non-sparkly kind), werewolves, and other monsters make up one type, while psychological horror makes up another. And there is yet another type, in which the horror comes with a lesson like one of Aesop’s fables soaked in blood. In The Bone Factory, Nate Kenyon manages to meld all three of these sub-genres into one story that is effective, chilling, and full of promise.
David Pierce is offered what seems to be the perfect job. A year out of work has done horrible things to his morale, his family, and his financial standings. When a plumb job at a hydroelectric plant comes up, he jumps at the chance, even if it means moving his wife and his daughter to the Canadian border in the middle of a brutal winter. But there have been strange things going on in the frozen forest. A missing child, murders, and strange hallucinations have been plaguing the tiny town for more than a month, and it seems David and his family have been dropped into the middle of it. Add to the situation that his daughter is an emerging psychic, and the area is the domain of a recently-released mental patient, and you have all the makings for a story that will chill like a winter storm.
Kenyon is at his best when describing the isolated settings in this book. From the tiny two-street town to the dense and foreboding woods behind Pierce’s new house, he creates the sense of hopelessness and loneliness that one imagines such a place might bring. He also manages to push the right amount of foreboding into the settings, giving the settings enough character of their own that they sometimes become the most threatening part of the story.
He also works very well with his characters. The little girl, Jessie, is very well written as she encounters new and frightening images in her head, forever tenaciously clinging to her best friend, a tattered teddy named Johnny-Bear. He also delivers with the characterizations every member of the cast, showing the reader the real worry that parents go through when they don’t understand what’s wrong with their child, the regret of characters when they feel guilt, and even the psychosis of a mad, head-chopping monster.
Where Kenyon falls short is in his delivery. Within the first few pages, it’s obvious who’s killing whom on the mountain. The plot seems to be straight-forward, with few, if any, twists or turns, and barrels forward like a truck on an ice-covered road. But it seems almost as if the plot in this book is secondary to the environmentalist message the story brings. While messages in a novel are neither bad nor anything new, Kenyon comes off, at times, as preaching to the reader rather than letting the reader take the trip with the characters.
Still, the story is absorbing. Apart from the environmental soap-boxing, The Bone Factory is a compelling read about betrayal, sorrow, loss and despair, with murder and mayhem thrown in for good measure. By far, the most compelling characters in this story are young Jessie and the monstrous Jonathan Newman, whom Kenyon has made into a real boogie-man. Kenyon pulls off a sense of hope at the end without making it appear cheesy. His characters, by the end of their journey through the book, are changed, and not completely for the better. With this book, Kenyon shows not only that he is a first-class writer, but is a writer with a conscience.
4 out of 5
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