Published: 10 June 2014
On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)
Driving home one day from a conference, Daryl seeks a shortcut through a barren countryside. He chances upon a mysterious village whose residents seem rather odd. But they have something to show him—a creature so strange he can hardly believe it exists.
And that's only the beginning of Daryl's problems, as he seeks to escape something far worse than he can ever imagine.
Something utterly horrific and extremely savage.
This novella begins with an established Horror trope. You know, the one where someone gets lost and finds themselves in a place that is both surreal and eerie. Interestingly enough, to me at least, this happens in Yorkshire, where I moved four months ago. Although I live a little bit from where this is happening, I am familiar with the type of location this is set in.
Tropes aren't something that are inherently bad, although for some reason they are often talked about as if that was the case, and in this case Fry does use it to good effect. It doesn't really transcend the trope it starts out with though, although it does tweak the story such that it moves in a slightly unfamiliar direction.
Fry does a very good job at building the atmosphere of the novella. Mostly he does so through the main character, Daryl, a character we learn a lot about in a short timespan. Daryl is an excellent protagonist for a story like this, and the author has made a very good choice in who he lets us see what unfolds through. It's unclear whether Daryl is shaped by the story, or the story shaped by Daryl, he is just a so good fit that the distinction between the two gets pointless to me. I'll leave it with the character and story perfectly complement each other.
I already mentioned that the story makes some tweaks to the trope it uses. I found those to be both refreshing and unsettling. Unsettling in the way that it does somewhat mess with your preconceptions. The way it doesn't quite turn how you expect it to makes the story a bit unreal. It just feels like it is not quite right, it just doesn't do what you thought it would.
Of course that feeling of unease is a plus for a Horror story, and it heightens the feeling of unease and suspense that the story conveys. but it was a little bit distracting at times for me. Not the fault of the author, but a disconnect between the story and my preconceptions about how this trope will move.
The only slightly weak point in this story is the ending. It felt a little unsatisfying to me. It is not a bad ending, it was just that the rest of the story gave me expectations of something a little bit more than what I got.
Overall, this is a good read. It accomplishes both creating a great atmosphere and letting us get very close to the main character in a very short time. It does also tell a nice little Rural Horror story that manages to be unsettling in both its familiarity and unfamiliarity.
If you want a quick Horror read that makes good use of a familiar trope, I can recommend picking this up. It is a tale that is well worth spending a little time with.
NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley