Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: The Narrows by Ronald Malfi

     Take two parts Lovecraft, one part Stephen King, and one part vampire novel. You now have The Narrows.
     This book was…I wouldn’t say truly frightening, because it didn’t make me want to leave all the lights on for a week *coughrelicmarblehornetscough*, but it was certainly tense and extremely creepy.
     Stillwater, Maryland, is a tiny town, slowly but surely fading away. It is the stormy season, and a week after a boy’s body is found after a flood, bloated, pale, and hairless, strange things begin happening. Bats show up in droves. People begin disappearing. Cattle are mutilated, left with strange chemical goo on them. The local children are starting to whisper the word “vampire”…
     But it is worse than a vampire. Oh, so much worse.
     It’s hard to tell much more, as to do so will give away much of the novel. But I have to say this-Ronald Malfi CAN WRITE.
     His descriptions are just detailed enough to give a clear, intense picture of the scene. As he described Stillwater, I could imagine my own hometown, made even worse when he mentioned it was in Allegheny County. Wait, is this really in Maryland? Sure you’re not down in Virginia after all? But I digress. He uses an isolated setting. I loved how one chapter began simply with all the older generation waking up-feeling a watchfulness over the town. Little things like this build up the suspense so well. We don’t even really know what’s happening till the very last quarter of the novel; yet this works very well. It’s the not knowing that makes it creepy. You know this isn’t your average vampire tale. But what is it?
     And the best part? You never do quite figure it out. Malfi gives us a horror that Lovecraft would be proud of; yet in the end, we don’t really know what it is, or why it is. It simply is.
     Another thing I like about Malfi’s writing is that he can switch between viewpoints without making it seem clunky or confusing. It helps that his characters, even minor ones, have such unique voices that you can’t mix them up. He can get into their heads like few authors can.
     I plan on reading more of his work. I’m that impressed. Read this. Read this, and be creeped out.

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