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Posted May 13, 2012
Sometimes I feel like the master of the bad analogy. I have another one for you here. Imagine you’re driving on a narrow, winding, two-lane mountain road with very little traffic. As you drive around curves in the road, you keep hitting potholes, which force you to slow down. If you want to get to the destination enough, you deal with it, but they’re still an irritant.
That’s how I felt reading Loathsome, Dark and Deep. The potholes in this case were copy-editing misses, each one minor, but coming frequently enough to slow me down. And I do mean minor. Things like a missing ‘a’, ‘the’, or ‘of’. An occasional verb tense or homonym error. If you tend to skim past those things, you won’t notice them here. If you’ve trained your internal editor to pay attention, it will slow you down. On the plus side, you’ll have more time to look at the scenery.
Despite taking my reading off cruise control and paying too much attention to the road, I liked the story. It takes place in what was then the Oregon Territory, and is now Oregon and Washington State, in the 1800s. Although primarily a horror story with a large dose of adventure in a historical setting, it has elements of mystery and what I’ll describe as primitive steam punk. Although it doesn’t have zombies, it comes darn close, for those who are into the living dead. As you would expect, with this kind of genre mashing, it will also keep you guessing.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
Posted March 2, 2011
Aaron Polson's Loathsome, Dark, and Deep is the perfect book for horror, mystery, and thriller readers, combining a popular blend of genres adeptly. Beginning exactly where it should, troubled soul Henry Barlow receives a letter of duty with H&P Lumber and Pulp to relieve Edmund Curt from a small outpost along the Lewis River-something bad has happened to the men up there. It gets even creepier and continues to do so until the last page is turned.
The location is the cold, wet Pacific Northwest, the time is post-civil war, and the mission is to investigate the disappearance and murder of several workers. Henry and a small group of armed men set off up the Columbia, each with mixed pasts and attitudes, which adds further conflict and drama to a solid plot. Gruesome encounters with "ruined men" and violence inside the woods tests the crew's strength, bravery, and wits, and discerning whom to trust is just as deadly.
Through the men's treacherous journey, subtle back-story reveals both physical and emotional scars of the characters and why it is a struggle for them to survive together, in woods that may hold dangers far beyond what they faced in the war. When, what is left of, Barlow's team finally disembarks at their destination, the desolate camp tells of a more serious threat, one that will take everything Barlow and his men have, and more, if they are going to make it out of the loathsome, dark, and deep woods alive.
What I liked best about Loathsome, Dark, & Deep was the mood that Mr. Polson established throughout the entirety of the novel. Because I live only five miles from the Columbia River, I found the scenic descriptions of a chilling, thick fog and a dampness that saturates into the bones of the land to be quite truthful. This atmosphere compliments the state of Henry Barlow, the cold that has settled into his soul from a past filled with heart-wrenching mistakes and violence, and it certainly fuels the fear of what lies and waits in the forest for the crew of the steam vessel, the Raven. I really enjoyed the characters, their tempered relations, the smooth pacing between scenes, and a well-executed plot with twists and surprises that occur both logically and timely.
I will definitely spread the word to family, friends, and bloggers about Aaron Polson's novel, Loathsome, Dark, and Deep-it is absolute in chills and suspense! I look forward to reading more of his work in the near future.