Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by J.F. Gonzalez
Published by Leisure Books
Gonzalez’ first book through Leisure, Survivor, stands as one of the worst reviewed pieces of horror fiction on this site. I hate to say it again, but it really is a terrible, terrible book from start to finish, and not for any reasons that may make you curious to check it out. Believe me.
So imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed The Beloved! Wow, between this and a positive review for an Ed Lee book (which you can read here), I must be getting soft in my old age.
The Beloved is a pretty simplistic story; a man (Ronnie) meets a woman (Diana) over the internet and falls for her a bit too quickly. He moves her to his hometown to be with her and her two kids and pretty soon Diana, neglecting his daughter and ignoring the pleas from his family to not trust her, overwhelms his entire life. But this new woman is not just some hag who just happens to strike his fancy; she’s actually a shapeshifting monstrosity who is slowly sucking the life out of him.
Sound interesting? It is, folks, though not as much as it could be.
The focus of the book is mainly Ronnie’s immediate family — daughter Mary, sister Elizabeth and his mother and father, so we learn just how quickly things are falling apart through their eyes. Rarely are we given a glimpse into what is actually going unless one of them witnesses it, so a lot of pages are taken up by family members discussing the same events to different people which can be a bit repetitive. Thankfully the characters are more or less likeable, if not exceptionally three dimensional, so time spent with them doesn’t drag.
What makes The Beloved memorable is that it’s a different kind of story than you usually find in mainstream horror these days; the character of Diana is plain and simply evil, though not in any outward or violent way. She’s manipulative, deceiving and two-faced … which I guess is what you’d expect from a woman. But she’s also a shapeshifting monstrosity!
I kid, I kid. Diana really is out and out evil, only in the relationship to suck the life out of her mate and feed off the strife she causes in his family’s life. I guess the metaphor for bad relationships is a tad heavy-handed, but it still works as an effective horror story. Monsters in the suburbs aren’t something we see very often, and even though there’s not a lot done with that aspect of the premise, it’s still a good setting for an horror novel.
As previously stated, Gonzalez has a problem with repetition. I found myself skimming through a lot of the same conversations as the book wound to a close which only managed to take me out of the story. Though it doesn’t happen as often as it did in Survivor, there are still way too many moments where a group of characters feel the need to sit around and discuss what’s happening all over again in order to formulate a plan. They also have a tendency to get surprised by the same information numerous times, which to me is just an example of both the author not paying as much attention to what he wrote as he should and an editor who just doesn’t care enough.
Sorry, I don’t mean to focus too much on the negative. The truth is while I did enjoy The Beloved a lot more than I thought I would, my expectations going in were so low it would’ve been hard not to impress me. While it’s different from what I’m used to reading with most of the mainstream horror, that doesn’t mean it’s a great book. Gonzalez still has a lot of growing to do as an author, but The Beloved is definitely a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping he’ll just keep getting better!
2 1/2 out of 5
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