Written by Al Sarrantonio
Published by Leisure Books
When I first managed to get on Leisure’s review list, Al Sarrantonio’s last book, Hollow’s Eve was the first book I read. An auspicious beginning to say the least, as the book bored the hell out of me and didn’t leave a lasting impression other than that it was dull and light.
So here we are a few years later, and Sarrantonio’s latest trip to the fictional town of Orangefield is a bit of an improvement though the novel as a whole felt a bit directionless, especially after the first half had passed. I’m not positive of it, but I’m pretty sure this section was actually a short story Al wrote that he just crammed in with another story of Orangefield to come up with a full novel. I’m not sure if that’s lazy writing or lazy publishing, but it seems to be a bit of a trend with Leisure as of late.
The first story is about a children's author suffering from his first-ever case of writer’s block. His wife gets to the point where she’s going to leave him because of his moodiness, but then the night after the two make up, she disappears. While he’s sufficiently distraught, he also acquires a burst of creativity and ends up coming up with some of the best stories he’s ever written, so pretty soon his wife’s disappearance is all but forgotten. A recurring problem with some particularly tenacious hornets manages to distract him, however, and ends up being the actual cause of his missing wife. It’s convoluted and suffers from a slow pace and a pretty uninteresting lead character, a bit of an asshole, actually, but it does have some connection with Sarrantonio’s embodiment of evil, Samhain.
Then there’s another section that feels like a short story crammed in for the purposes of padding out the novel about a metal man named Pumpkin Boy who's terrorizing the denizens of the town that really has no connection to anything else, but on its own it’s actually a somewhat cool story.
Finally there’s another tale of the unfortunate residents of Orangefield that has a much stronger connection to Samhain, who asks repeatedly (in what is supposed to be a malicious whisper) for everyone to call him Sam. He’s trying to get three of the town’s losers to off themselves in order to start some kind of hell on Earth but is foiled at the last minute (drat!).
All in all it’s a bit comical, not very horrific, and written with little to no flair. None of the characters are all that interesting or three dimensional, which as you may know from reading any of my other reviews is what makes or breaks a horror tale of any caliber. It came across to me as Al having some moderately interesting ideas for a few Orangefield tales but not taking the time to really develop the characters enough to take said stories any further.
I really wish that, if this is basically a collection of shorts stories, such a thing would be told to the readers at the book’s outset because setting it up as a complete novel is deceiving and leads this reviewer to give it a lower score because of it. Sometimes such a feat works if the stories are good enough (see Mick Garris’ Development Hell for a good example), but such is just not the case here. Horrorween is just no fun at all, despite some occasional graphic gore set pieces, so perhaps you should avoid this Orangefield offering as well.
1 1/2 out of 5
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