Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Golem by Edward Lee

Stories of monsters pervade horror fiction, from giant beasts that ravage cities (think King Kong, Godzilla, or the anthology Monstrous reviewed here), or small, creeping horrors (H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls”). There are the creatures that have become staples of the horror genre, from Frankenstein’s monster to the werewolf, zombies to Dracula and the host of other vampires that seem to be popping up in fiction everywhere nowadays. Religious backgrounds aren’t uncommon either, especially stories of possession and the Devil (The Excorcist, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby). Yet, Jewish religious ideas, which are particularly rich for fiction like this, especially with groups such as the Kabbalah, and with folks tales of the inhuman golem, yet they are a rare occurrence indeed. All of this of course means that, as a fan of a good creature feature myself, and looking for something new from an author I only had a brief acquaintance with (“In the Year of Our Lord: 2202”—which many people seemed to like less than its companions, but which I thought was the best of the three—from the anthology Triage, featuring stories from Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum as well), I jumped at Edward Lee’s The Golem.

Seth and Judy have lived through dark patches of their lives, and now have recovered from their addictions to achieve great success and fortune. The boyfriend-girlfriend duo buys a house in rural Maryland, once owned by a well-known Jewish leader. However, their house and the land surrounding it have a dark past filled with religious intolerance that lead to violence and death. Over one hundred years ago a mysterious force killed an entire town, and that creature has returned.

With a brutal prologue that sets the stage for the events to come, Lee weaves a wonderful novel filled with historical and religious details. While the horror elements take a while to surface, there is an underlying unease and tension that fills the very well written story. The plot is tightly wound, with realistic dialogue, convincing characters, and a swift pace. While this lacking of the elements I was suspecting at times made things seem to lag, leaving the reader with an urge for something to happen, it is undeniable that Lee’s writing ability managed to cover that flaw fairly well.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, suspense-filled horror novel, you might look elsewhere. However, if a well-written tale of historical horror and modern struggles appeals to you, The Golem is for you.


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