Published by Cemetary Dance Publications
First let me say, as I kick off my book reviewing stint here on Dread Central, that I am generally not a hard-to-please reader. So considering that, I really was hoping to make this first review a brilliantly positive, yet startlingly poignant critique of a unique and well written, really kick-arse horror novel. But alas, it seems Norman Partridge and his new novel Dark Harvest just wouldn’t have it that way.
So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The reader learns a lot of what’s necessary to know about this particular story in the first few pages, so it’s fitting. The whole premise is pretty simple: there is an evil creature with vines for limbs and a jack o’lantern head that lives out in the cornfields of this very small town. And comes out only on … you guessed it, Halloween. In order to stop said creature from crossing the town’s edges and reaching its center, the townsfolk parents lock up and starve all their 16-19 year old sons (quite an arbitrary age range, wouldn’t you say?), for five days and set them loose Halloween night with guns and machettes. And why, you ask, would these boys need to be starved prior to this gourd scavenger hunt? Why, because someone put candy in the monster’s glowing head, of course! Makes perfect sense. (Gah.) But the chocolatey goodness isn’t the only carrot dangling before these hormone-flooded boys; slaying the October Boy means a one-way ticket out of Dodge, for good. Because for some completely unexplained reason, nobody can leave town without being captured and dragged back.
But let’s forget about the book’s nonsensical plot for a moment, shall we? The very first thing I actually noticed about the novel was how poorly it’s written. In fact, I noticed it so much that I was completely distracted from the unconvincing story line and left to focus solely on the writer’s laughable metaphors, outlandish dialogue and angering suspense buildup that leads nowhere. It’s clear that Partridge was shooting for originality with his writing style, however not only did it fail to convince me and succeed only in reminding me of why I hated "Dawson’s Creek" so much, but it wasn’t even consistent throughout the whole book. Just when the descriptive dialogue ended and the story’s action kicked on, it was like some other writer took over and it was a much easier read. I was relieved as hell, but felt that as bad as it was, if the author really wanted to showcase a unique writing style he should have at least followed through with it until the end.
But as for the good things I can say about this book the plot, though riddled with holes big enough to drive your Hummer through, was something outside of all the ghosts, goblins, warewolves and vampires that have always clogged up the definition of horror story. It was a different sort of monster with a different set of motivations than any I’ve read about in the past. I do feel there is a small seed of greatness in the premise and the author delivers it among small-town people with small-town mentalities, which is always the setup for some great character development. But the descriptive sections of this slim novella apparently could not round out characters that are palpable enough heroes or foes for the story to reach any high point. The reader simply arrives at the rather tepid ending (though not totally bad) to a story involving characters it seems were just introduced right around the time the writing style switched over.
And yes, I did say that the book’s conclusion wasn’t entirely bad, simply because I still hold that the plot could have really been good. But the author forgot to tie up a lot of loose ends, for example why the entire town is in lock-down in the first place and dependent on the massacre of its perennial monster. I’d really like to say that the story was of high school caliber and just plain dull, but the truth is I’m not so sure the story is nearly as much to blame as is its substandard author. Perhaps Partridge should have tried selling his plot to a better writer… just a suggestion.
1 1/2 out of 5
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