I'll be honest. My favorite way to enjoy horror fiction is with the short story. Sure, I crave a fantastic horror novel, with intricate development and building up to a terrifying climax. But often I just want to be able to sit down and get scared fast. Creating a short, sharp shock is a skill that hundreds of authors attempt, but relatively few succeed at on a regular basis.
Well, fellow short-story lovers, have I got a novel for you!
Any horror short-story writer already loves Bentley Little he's written hundreds of tales, many of them unforgettable. And trust me, his new novel The House is not a tale you're going to be forgetting any time soon. Unlike Little's previous novels, The House abandons the usual single central character and instead takes on five central characters, with alternating viewpoints every chapter. You've got Daniel, an unemployed devoted hubby and dad; Laurie, who just found the love of her life loving someone else in her bathroom; Norton, a crotchety old schoolteacher who has a violent mean streak; Stormy, an aspiring filmmaker who cares more about having a good film than a good marriage; and Mark, a lonely roamer who had a psychic sixth sense until his sister suddenly died.
Five characters who couldn't be more different except they've all got one thing in common. None of them can remember their childhood, with one exception. Every one of them knows they lived in some sort of spooky house and had some sort of contact with a little blond girl that's the most sexual, violent, and downright horrifyingpreteenthis side of The Exorcist . And now she's making grand reappearances in each of their lives, forcing them to remember and revisit their sickening blood-soaked pasts, all of which will come together in a shocking twist.
So why are short-story lovers going to dig The House ? Because, unlike most novels, you can't go five pages in The House at any point without coming across a nerve-jangling, spine-tingling, nightmare-inducing scene of pure, unadulterated grue. The horror is unrelenting, to the point of almost feeling like a personal assault. However, gore and bloodshed alone do not make for an effective horror novel (something that was lost on quite a few authors of the splatterpunk movement). A top-notch horror novel will mix the terror with a generous dose of heart, and that's where The House separates itself from the pack. Despite five separate viewpoints, and five stories to tell, Bentley Little has imparted every aspect of the storyline with a surprisingly effective wallop of emotion, giving each character issues of love, hate, and family to deal with in order to confront their horrific pasts. Admittedly, with so many main characters, a couple are not as finely fleshed-out as others, but for the most part, you truly feel for the plight these poor saps have been sucked into.
But be warned this is one sick book. There are countless taboo-breaking scenes that will make even the most devoted horror reader cringe in fear and disgust, and it is one of the most adult-themed horror novels released by a major publisher since Jack Ketchum's cult fave the Girl Next Door. When all is said and done, The House is a terrific follow-up to Little's previous masterpieces, The Store and The Ignored .
And for those of you who have never experienced Bentley Little before, I suggest you set aside a night to take up residence in The House . Pleasant dreams, kids this is the stuff nightmares are made of.