Monday, March 15, 2010

Friday Night in Beast House by Richard Laymon

I am a huge Richard Laymon fan, and I suppose that should be taken into account when you read this review. However, it is undeniable that Laymon is one of the best overlooked horror writers of all time. His ability to make you care about his characters in a scant few pages, as well as his using violence to increase the horror (as opposed to the book reviewed before this one), and his original plots, make him worth reading every time. And his pinnacle of horror writing is the Beast House Chronicles, which started with The Cellar, continued in The Beast House, and for the most part wrapped up in the brilliant The Midnight Tour. However, Laymon wrote one more tale of Beast House, the long novella Friday Night in Beast House. Out only in limited editions or out of print since it first came out, it has finally come out in mass market paperback, and I dove at the chance to grab a copy. This new version of Friday Night in Beast House is a collection of two novellas, the title story and “The Wilds,” Laymon’s tribute to Algernon Blackwood.

Friday Night in Beast House: Mark likes Alison, and so when she agrees to go out with him, he doesn’t think twice about her one condition: he has to help her sneak into Beast House overnight. But what starts out as an innocent quest for young love turns into a grueling day of hiding and an even darker night of danger.

The Cellar, as the first book in the series, stands alone quite well. While The Beast House and The Midnight Tour are sequels, they very much stand by themselves, and are just as enjoyable with no prior knowledge. Each book acts as a separate chronicle in the history of Beast House, so while they may have one character become a minor character in a later book, no main characters overlap and each story is self-sustaining. Friday Night in Beast House, acting as a coda of sorts to the saga, doesn’t stand alone nearly as well as the others. While it could be read with no prior knowledge, a lot of the little details mentioned will be completely missed, and the climax of the tale would likely be a bit confusing without having read at least one of the books. This one is for fans of the series.

However, for those fans, this is a wonderful treat. Is it as gripping as the first three books? No. It does, however, serve as a nice wrapping up of the world of Beast House. One final adventure, more light-hearted than the others, with its own bizarre twist in the final, makes this a great look back at a great series. You get to see the beasts one last time, before the door is closed, and one of the best tourist attraction-type horror series ends. Very fun, and a great way to end the Chronicles.

“The Wilds”: After a rough break up, Ned heads out for a solo camping trip in the Lost River Wilderness Area. However, the longer he stays out, the more reclusive he becomes. As he embraces his wild side, a few people invade his solitude, and he strikes out for his freedom.

A theme that Laymon works on a number of occasions is having his narrator slowly devolve into an antagonist. This is seen to full effect in one of his longer novels, Island, but it is also worked at here. The character of Ned starts out as a very sympathetic character coming off hard times, and gradually changes into a violent creep as he loses himself to his wild ways. A very solid story, well written and realistically portrayed emotionally, this story is a winner.

This newest collection of Laymon’s work, although very brief, is a nice place to stop for a couple days. Especially for fans of Laymon’s other work, this one will give you both a nice return and cap to his greatest story, but also a fun, quick stand alone piece. The two novellas go together well, and after going through a number of longer books, make a nice change up.


1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry but this is appalling. I was actually offended as a human being whilst reading this book and frankly was disgusted by it. Maybe there's something I'm missing in novellas that are awfully written and have no gripping or intelligent story-line, but I maintain the belief that any half-arsed writer could throw something together that was better than this book in less that an hour. All in all I wasted over two hours reading this and very nearly threw it in a fire when I was done. That is all.