Strange Seed (Book)
Published by Twisted Publishing
It’s an odd aspiration to have, but one that is more and more realistic these days; to start your own small-press specialty label to either release new editions of long-desired classics, such as is the case here, or publish the works of up and coming writers who you feel deserve a shot.
Such was the desire of John McIlveen, who started Twisted Publishing a while back to give fans of horror something truly special. He made a great choice to start off with T.M. Wright’s classic tale of subtle, creeping evil, Strange Seed, a book that has been read and reviewed by those far more intelligent and verbose than myself. Though I guess if I can use the word “verbose” so regularly, I might as well give it a shot.
Our story begins when a newly married couple leaves the hectic life of New York City and settles down on a remote farm that’s about as far from civilization as you can get without actually living in trees. The ramshackle cottage from husband Paul’s youth is not the ideal place young Rachel had hoped they’d settle down in after a whirlwind romance and subsequent marriage, but she’s determined to make the best of it.
Something is eerie about both the house and the encroaching forest all around it, and Rachel soon learns that the previous family who lived there did not meet a pleasant end. Something to do with strange children who show up seemingly from nowhere and drive their new-found parents to do things they would have normally never thought of. So when a young child is found huddled in the newlywed’s couple, Rachel immediately gets a bad feeling about him, despite the fact that his skin is perfect, his features are angelic, and he’s more or less mute.
As they come to accept the child into their lives, Rachel becomes more and more unable to deal with his presence, until finally one day she tires to kill him for reasons that are never made 100% clear. The child is put in a room, never allowed outside of it, and Rachel and Paul try and create some sort of life for themselves. But things are getting worse both between them and inside themselves, and they believe the child (if that’s truly what he is) is the one to blame for it all.
But it’s much worse than that.
In the new introduction by Jack Ketchum to this edition of Strange Seed, the author makes mention that he accidentally ripped off one of the scenes of this book for one of his own short stories years after reading it. If you’ve read the story Ketchum refers to, that’s about the only time you’ll find anything else every remotely like Strange Seed, and even then the connection is tenuous. Seed is one of the most original, bizarre, and creeping tales I’ve ever read. That’s not to say it’s without its problems, however.
I’m the first one to scream and holler about authors who feel they have to spell everything out for their readers, but there is such a thing as being too vague. The stilted, unfinished conversations between Rachel and Paul, and the way Wright likes to leave a story just as it’s getting to the interesting bit, can be frustrating if you let it get to you. By the end of the book I was used to it, of course, and can appreciate it as the man’s style, but truthfully it almost felt like he was trying too hard to not explain things.
A minor complaint, however, and one that can be easily overlooked if you’re prepared for it. What’s important is how well Wright is able to build the dread and the tension throughout the entire novel without ever really letting any of it go, so that by the end you’re almost dying for some kind of release. I’m sure that’s a very satisfying skill for an author to have, and it’s obvious I’m not the only one who felt this way as the book is almost 20 years old and still getting praise from all manner of fans.
A word about this edition, if I may; Twisted has put together a beautiful hardcover complete with incredibly disturbing artwork by Rick Sardinha. The illustrations are few, but when they are featured they are on their own, thicker paper stock than that the book was printed on, which drastically improves their quality and maintains detail, an important trait in work like this. Some minor copyediting issues occur randomly throughout the book which tend to take you out of the story, but it can be forgiven considering this is Twisted first title.
Strange Seed is a great, creeping title the likes of which we hardly ever see these days and coupled with this artfully crafted new edition should make a welcome addition to any horror fan’s library.
4 out of 5
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