Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hallowed Ground review

    It's basically Needful Things in the Wild West. That's the short review of this book by David Niall Wilson and Steven Savile. The book's premise is a mysterious traveler comes to a sleepy little town in the Wild West which is full of secrets, feuds, and hatreds. By the end of the conflict, the town has torn itself apart with the traveler's true supernatural evil having been exposed for the world to see.

    There's significant differences in the story, especially as it becomes increasingly clear the traveler is subordinate to a much more malevolent entity, but the Stephen King influences definitely jumped out at me and that's not a bad thing. The book is fairly thick on metaphor, symbolism, and hints of things to come which may bother some readers but I found enjoyable.
    Interestingly, the authors seem to be worried about how the book would be received since they felt the need to put a Foreword in the beginning which warns it's not a shoot-em-up bang bang sort of Western. I don't think this was necessary, albeit I never dislike a good shoot em up, since the idea of a supernatural meditation on sin and evil isn't a bad thing.

    The world of Hallowed Ground is a spooky and subdued place where all of the sins of the townsfolk are hidden under a respectable, albeit paper thin, veneer. There's the town prostitute who more than anything wishes to be a mother and a nurturer. There's the man who would do anything to raise his dead fiance and thinks he can out-think the Devil in terms of deal-making. There's the mysterious Deacon serving as Randall Flagg and Leland Gaunt figure but perhaps not so happy being the Devil's handyman as he may appear.

    Overall, I think I was most impressed with the character of the Deacon who provides the book with most of its energy. I think the book is always at its most enjoyable when he's dancing around, making promises and prayers which aren't necessarily going to the same God everyone else claims as their own. I buy he's a strange and charismatic figure to the people of Rookwood, who would potentially sell their souls to him simply because he's that charming.

    The book stumbles a few times with its symbolism and metaphor as I got a little lost toward the end with the five way feud happening between the Devil, Deacon, our heroes, Lilith, and an angel. I think the book might have benefited a bit by scaling back to only be focused on Deacon, the Devil, and our heroes but that's just me. Despite this, I like the book's ending and think it's set up for a sequel or even series.

    A warning that the book is a slower and more methodical read where you have to take time to soak in the atmosphere. The book is about fifty percent mood and another thirty-percent metaphor so that it you really are missing something if you try to plow through it. This is a book which should be read at night with your complete concentration. I also think the book uses too many pronouns versus proper names, which is the weirdest complaint I've ever made about a book.
    In conclusion, I recommend Hallowed Ground to those who enjoy Weird Westerns and more cerebral horror. The fact I wanted to read a second book starring the surviving heroes immediately after the end of this volume should tell you I enjoyed it.


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