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Home, The (Book)

Author Scott Nicholson has been responsible for delivering more than his share of scares to horror fans over the past few years. His past titles The Harvest, The Red Church, and The Manor have won critical acclaim as well as loyalty from horror fans worldwide. In his latest offering, The Home, Nicholson proves himself to be a legitimate voice in the horror field, combining sympathetic characters and a compelling story with enough nerve-numbing moments to keep any horror fan happy.

Freeman Mills is a twelve-year-old boy with a rough past. A psychopathic father and a torturous childhood have landed him in group home after group home, filled with well-meaning do-gooders who want to help or “heal” him. Wendover Home is no different, he believes. The other children are troubled and unwanted, and the staff is a mixture of religious zealots and pure scientific fanatics. But there is more to Wendover than just the high stone walls and the pale blue of the boys’ dormitory. Strange experiments are being performed which threaten to bring Wendover’s past back to chilling light.

The story is fast paced, delivering moments of genuine fear with a sprinkling of humor that will keep the reader riveted. As the point of view shifts from character to character, the reader is treated to insight that questions just who it is that is supposed to be “disturbed.” Though the patients’ maladies range from anorexia to sociopathic disorders, their troubles pale in comparison to the maelstroms occurring behind the eyes of their would-be healers.

Nicholson is at his best when dealing with the inner workings of his characters’ personalities. From Freeman Mills’ fixation with Clint Eastwood to Vicky Barnwell’s obsession with the imagined fat on her skeletal frame, Nicholson gives a disturbing look inside psychosis. In this world the children are not reduced to, or defined by, their disorders. They are made real and sympathetic by their struggles to overcome them.

In addition, The Home succeeds where many novels do not in that it is just flat-out scary. Though there are points where the reader can see what’s going to happen, it is the same kind of foresight that occurs in the moments preceding a car crash. The reader knows something awful is going to happen, but he stays locked to the pages until the action has played out and is left with a rapid heartbeat when it’s over.

The Home is a great piece of horror fiction, supplied with deft expertise by a remarkable wordsmythe.

The Home
By Scott Nicholson
Pennacle Horror, August 2005
349 pages

 

4 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit