Friday, September 18, 2015

The Silent End review

    The Silent End by Samuel Sattin is one of the rare horror novels released by predominately fantasy publisher, Ragnarok Publications. I had no knowledge of what this particular book was going to be about so went into it cold. The result was being exposed to a creepy, bizarre, nightmare-logic story which put me in the mind of the Alan Wake game or Stephen King's work. The book has, in my opinion, a couple of flaws but not something which prevents it from being a surprisingly good horror story with a coherent ending that explains just what the **** was going on.

    The premise is Eberstark, a young man growing up in a small town called Mossglow, is surrounded by subtle and not-so-subtle weirdness. His father is a raving paranoid schizophrenic survivalist, his mother has disappeared, and he's being stifled by the town in every possible way that he can't wait to escape from it with graduation. Accompanied one Halloween night by his friends Lexie and Gus, this all becomes irrelevant when the two of them find a monster sleeping in the woods.

    Then things get REALLY weird.

    One of the things H.P. Lovecraft described as a problem in horror was that, too many times, the audiences knew the rules of the genre. With a vampire, after Bram Stroke's Dracula at least, you knew stakes and garlic were your friends. A werewolf? Well, you need to shoot em with a silver bullet. Part of what H.P. Lovecraft doing was inserting his protagonists into situations where they had no context for what the hell was going on.

    Say, there's a creeping weird glowing thing which is killing people, you don't know what it's doing or where it comes from or what it wants. The uncertainty provides much of the tension. Stephen King dances back and forth on this topic with some of his events making reasonable sense but others just being something happening our protagonists have to deal with.

    In The Silent End, our heroes have to deal with stuff they can't quite put into words. There's people disappearing, people going insane, objects coming to life, and one spectacularly creepy story by Gus where he describes a bunch of tiny people living inside an animal which fell apart under a magnifying glass. That's in addition to all of the sheer weird stuff which just seems to inhabit the world regardless, like Twin Peaks, which managed to get a lot of its enjoyment from the fact the inhabitants were off in ways you didn't often see on television.

    Samuel Sattin goes a little too overboard with his world, deluging the reader with creepy imagery and stuff which only makes sense in the context of a nightmare. Why is there a man called the Hat? Well, there's a reason but there's not enough grounding in the world that you know when you SHOULD be finding something really weird versus, "This places makes no damned sense and you should just accept it." Some more moments where our protagonists are dealing with a 'normal' Mossglow would have been appreciated.

     Despite this, I found this to be an exceptionally evocative book and extremely well-written. The book was genuinely creepy and horrifying in places, which is something I don't often say due to my highly-jaded sensibilities. I also appreciated Samuel Sattin was willing to causally dash commonly held story conventions as well. It's not a spoiler to say, after spending the entire book pining for a girl and surrounded by monsters, Eberstark is still reduced to incoherent disappointed mumbling when he finds out his high school crush is a lesbian.

    And then nothing is made of it thereafter.

    I like stuff like that.

    I also give credit for something I never expected and that's, after everything is explained at the end, it all held together. In a book which is a near constant deluge of impossible terrifying things, the final explanation is strange in the way a horror-adventure story is, but not so much it didn't give closure to most of the book's mysteries. I had been assuming the book was going to be a lot of weirdness for weirdness sakes but, in fact, it all made sense.

    Well 80% and that's close enough for government work.

    In conclusion, The Silent End is an exceptionally well-written horror novel and easily the best published by Ragnarok Publications. Samuel Sattin has a long future ahead of him as a horror novelist, though I recommend he learn to reign in some of his crazier tendencies. You don't need the Blob, Ghouls, Cthulhu, Frankenstein, Cujo, and more to make a story work. You can just get by with one or two.


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