Thursday, October 27, 2011

REVIEW: Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey

If you’re looking for that near-perfect Halloween read, I cannot recommend Andrew Van Wey’s Forsaken highly enough. Not only is it one of the best electronic reads I’ve come across yet, but it’s the kind of highly polished, well-written story that I only wish I could have on my shelf as a hardcover first edition.

Yes, it’s really that good.

This is a book that really messes with you, contrasting surreal horror with ordinary tragedy in such a way as to keep you guessing (and doubting) as to what’s real and what’s all in Daniel’s head. There are no narrative tricks here, no blatant attempts to confuse the reader – instead, it’s a superbly crafted mystery that maintains an almost constant edge of suspense.

The story opens with a simple game of hide-and-seek that ends in an abandoned house, with a young boy coerced into hiding inside an old chest, and then trapped there by a cruelly placed railroad spike, left to scramble in terror until the nails and flesh have been torn from his hands. Andrew returns to that image time and time again throughout the book, but leaves us hanging until the very end before revealing how that scene, so many years ago, was finally resolved.

There are definitely ‘big’ moments of horror here. The painting at the heart of the story is the creepiest thing you’ve ever laid (virtual) eyes on, and the revelation [minor spoiler here!] that it was painted by a blind woman . . . well, it made my skin crawl. I wish I could describe it too you, but there’s no way to do it justice without replicating the careful work Andrew put into creating that image in the mind’s eye. The crazed, jilted grad student with revenge on her mind has almost become a staple of urban horror, but what Andrew does with (and to) her makes that aspect of the story fresh, and new, and absolutely gut-wrenching.

Really, though, it’s the little details, the smallest bits of horror (both natural and supernatural) that engaged me early, and kept me reading late into the night. The image of the blue jay that just won’t stay dead is one that has stayed with me days later, and the doll with the missing eyes still gives me chills.

As for the ending, it is definitely something to be experienced. Just when you think it’s over, just when you think Andrew has dragged our protagonist as low as can, just when you think redemption (or, at least, salvation) is on the next page, he offers up a twist that is both unexpected and fitting. I honestly did not see it coming, but looking back I can’t question it.

If you’re a fan of the big three – Barker, King, and Koontz – then you will enjoy this. With any luck, somebody in the publishing world will take notice and push Andrew into the spotlight this book deserves but, in the meantime, I will be anxiously awaiting whatever he has to share next.

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