Written by T. M. Gray
Published by Black Death Books
Take one part science fiction, one part ancient religion, and one part horror; throw it into a wood chipper; and what comes out might resemble T. M. Gray’s The Ravenous. What starts out as a tale of a small town with a secret moves through a discussion of Druidism, environmental science, and killer trees worshiped since the town was built.
The story begins with promise, providing a good blend of mystery to get the reader interested in reading more. When a pilot flies over a parcel of impossibly large oaks, he contacts the National Forest Service, alerting them to the strange, and formerly unknown, area. In the process he sets in motion a series of events that disrupts the quiet townsfolk of Gotham Creek, throwing their way of life into turmoil and bringing death in their wake. Gotham Creek has been, since its first settlers, entirely peopled by Druids, whose sacred duty it was to protect the old forest.
Where this book succeeds, it does so with authority. Gray describes a Norman Rockwell-style town down to the last detail. In meeting the characters, the reader becomes aware that each one is drawn with loving care, no matter how disturbed or unworthy of such affection they may be. Her research in some areas is above average, showing again that she cares a great deal about her subject. Also included are a few moments of real terror, entwined with the story of a town’s sad history as it unravels.
There are a few shortcomings in this novel, stemming from characters that, though vividly written, come off as stereotypes. A few examples include the F.B.I. agents in dark suits asking hardball questions that never really get past their dark sunglasses, the “tree hugger” who masquerades as an employee of the National Forest Service, and a host of others that come off as mere images of the Norman Rockwell lifestyle. In at least one case, the characters of the F.B.I. agents and the N.F.S. employees become so blurred that it seems as though at least one of them changes gender, and two become all but forgotten footnotes in the story. In addition, there are scenes in which people do things that seem completely out of character, such as the case of a torrid sex scene that comes across as only existing to shock the reader instead of moving the story.
Also, while it is apparent that Gray did her research when it came to the Druid religion, there are several occasions in which the reader is bombarded with so much information that it becomes tedious. But that is not to say the entire novel is without merit. Characters Eddie and Kate, siblings, do a good job of conveying the terror that children can feel when the world they thought they knew crumbles around them. The character of Norris, the town’s gravedigger, is similarly compelling in his simple way, providing another side to the perfect existence of Gotham Creek.
On the whole, The Ravenous is a different type of horror, confusing in places but conveying a very real and visceral sense of isolation for its citizens.
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