Written by L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims
Published by Leisure Books
Sorry for the incredible delay in getting this review written, as the book was released in early July, but in case you couldn’t tell, things have been a bit crazy in the DC camp this month, to put it mildly.
Shelter is the kind of book that drives me crazy. It starts off really cool with an interesting opening scene and some very serious drama being set up for characters later in life but quickly falls apart as our central character (a tough, beautiful female) finds a love interest (in this case a handsome rich boy) and the horror takes way more than just a backseat; it almost ends up in the trunk. I don’t know if it’s a trend with horror in general or just a knack that Leisure has when picking its releases, but goddamn, have I seen way too much of this recently.
The story is about a woman named Laura who has made a living out of renovating run-down homes and selling them off as vacation houses for those with way too much money to play with. After the rather dramatic opening scene, in which a soldier is given the fruit of his loins, a baby that has the ability to breathe underwater, in punishment for taking advantage of one of the local women, we meet Laura as she’s just bought a brand-new place to call her very own.
Trouble arises quickly as the construction crew finds a rather large hole on the property filled with water, and things get no better when it’s drained and they discover a very odd sort of fungus growing inside the hole. It just goes from bad to worse when one of her most trusted construction guys notices that the fungus is growing on him at an alarming rate and another is threatening to sue for injuries sustained from falling in the hole.
So what about that amphibious creature I mentioned earlier? That is the centerpoint of the horror in Shelter, but not in the cool monster way you may be hoping for. Seems the creature has been in stasis for 50-some years and has the ability to take over a new host, which of course it finds in Laura’s former business partner/lover who goes sneaking about one fateful night. His rage over having been deserted and the creature's insatiable hunger should have made for an entertaining horror yarn, but instead it falls by the wayside way too often so the authors can give us descriptions of Laura’s feelings for her new man and their passionate love. Yawn.
The most horrific character is actually the aforementioned wounded construction worker, whose injuries grow at an alarming rate, plunging him into a madness that was, in all honesty, already knocking on his door from the get-go. The sections that focus on him are the most entertaining and graphic, but unfortunately they are few and far between and he’s dispatched way too easily before he can do anything too nasty.
Toward the end of the book it almost felt like the authors had lost a clear idea of the kind of story they wanted to tell, and their writing progressively gets more and more lazy. Some last-minute moments of tension help to leave the book off on what we hope is a down note but negates those plot points and resolves itself into the clichéd “you thought they were dead but they weren’t and now they’re blissfully happy” finale. Ah, well.
I’m not familiar with any of the duo’s previous works, which consist of mostly small press novellas and short stories, but I hope the faults of Shelter can be remedied before they embark on their next outing together. If nothing else I sincerely hope they don’t bother with a by-the-numbers love story to pad the pages but rather take the time to create more realistic characters that you actually care about when they’re in danger.
2 our of 5
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