Hallows Eve (Book)

Written by Al Sarrantonio

Published by Leisure Books

Halloween is the best time of year, hands down. No other holiday comes anywhere close to how cool Halloween is if you’re a horror fan, but what if you’re entire life from age 7 was a waking nightmare? Would the celebration of scary, horrifying things really be your cup of tea?

Welcome to Orangfield, New York, pumpkin capital of the world. The small town is known for one thing and one thing only, and for the last decade Corrie Phaeder has been doing his best to not think about his home town and try and do something productive with his life in California. One day, however, he throws it all away and takes a train back to where he came from. He cannot explain why; he just knew it was time to come home.

He goes back the house he lived in until he was 18 and had to leave town and immediately remembers why he left. When Corrie dreams, he has memories of his normal, real life. When he’s awake, in the house at least, he hears things, walls will suddenly disappear and stretch out for miles in all directions…and then it’ll all be back to normal. He thinks it’s the house, but soon he’s going to learn he’s actually part of a much bigger plan, one that could mean the end of everything as we know it.

This is not the first book Sarrantonio has written about the town of Orangefield, I was surprised to discover. Instead it’s a sequel to 2001’s Orangefield, which seemed to make a lot of critics happy. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than this entry, but I would hope it’s the former because Hallows Eve really leaves something to be desired.

Samhain, lord of the dead, plots to stop Corrie and his new 7-year old friend Regina from their fate, but Sarrantonio doesn’t seem to know where else to go with that basic outline. He spends a lot of time on a cop character who essentially does very little and barely reacts when both his wife and best friend suddenly die, and the rest of the time we have Corrie moving through the motions of not wanting whatever’s happening to him to happen but being unable to stop it. Some things are left hanging for pretty much the entire story, things that would have helped make Corrie a more well-rounded character, like what happened to him in California, where this idea to come home came from suddenly … things like that.

The end picks up a bit when we move into the “other side,” but even that is almost comical at times with conversations going on between wisps of smoke and cardboard cut-outs (that’s how they’re described, over and over, and it just seems silly after the first time), and all the denizens of that side seem to be geometric shapes. How haunting is that?

Still, Hallows Eve is an entertaining read, and Sarrantonio has a knack for detail. The way he describes the town of Orangefield leading up to Halloween really makes you feel like you’re there. It’s a skill that a lot of writers just don’t possess, and it’s sad when they try and pass off like they do. Al’s the real thing in that department, he’s just a bit lacking on the story side of things.

I just got the feeling that Sarrantonio wasn’t 100% sure where he wanted to go with the story until he got to it because it just has that “made up as I went along” feel to it. The ending does give us an idea we might have another sequel sometime in the future, and if that does happen, I hope the author has a plan for what he wants to do and when it should be done first and foremost.


3 out of 5

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