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Posted September 26, 2012
Jim Martin's Madman's Song surprised me greatly. First time writers usually make large missteps and don't begin to improve until their second book. With more than a little trepedation I started the book, only to find it completed by the end of the first night! Madman's Song decides to skip over being decent, zoom past being good, and rests only when it reaches greatness. That isn't to say the book is perfect, but it's certainly far better than most professional writer's sophmore novels and it won't be long until Jim Martin's name is mentioned in the same breath as Stephen King, in this humble reviewers opinion anyway.
One of Martin's greatest strengths is creating a likable and real feeling cast of characters that behave like fully fleshed out people, instead of cannon fodder waiting for a gruesome end. Dorothy in particular became one of my favorite characters, and some would argue she is strictly a supporting cast member, someone for Leslie to confide in and be an emotional sound off for. However, the author provides her with such life that from the beginning of the book I was holding my breath and hoping she makes in through in one piece. Whether she does or not I won't provide here, but suffice to say that Jim Martin is not afraid of putting any of his characters in danger, from his lead, straight down to a random dude in a diner.
Imagery is also a strong part of the book and there are some scenes that will set your hair on end. Each scene is vivid and well described and you can almost see it playing in your head. If someone in Hollywood doesn't approach Martin about his book becoming a film, I will be shocked and appalled. Not only because most scenes are nearly custom made for a great horror flick, but because the author has built up a memorable and detestable villian that will stay with you long after the last page.
However, not all is perfect in Millford Springs. Mr. Martin makes some smaller missteps that, while don't take away much from the larger context, are noticeable and in at least one case jarring. There was at least one instance in the book that the description of an event directly conflicted with the story and was confusing. The details were usually small and miniscule, but left me scratching my head.
The biggest drawback of the book though comes towards the end when the overall tone and pacing in the book change noticably from the rest of the book, resulting in an ending that is slightly jarring and unexpected with plot points that feel like they are from an entirely different book. Mind you, that different book is not a bad book, in fact some of the plot pieces added in this portion are as good or better than anything else in the book.
Slight cohesion and pacing problems aside, this is one of the finest horror novels that I've read in a while, and as a person who consumes plenty King and Koontz that's saying something. I'll be looking forward to the author's next book with great anticipation, because if this is his first attempt just imagine what the second one will read like!