Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: Wild Fell by Michael Rowe

2011 saw the publication of one of the best and scariest modern vampire novels with Enter, Night. Now Michael Rowe's second horror novel, Wild Fell, is doing for ghosts what Enter, Night did for vampires.

Much like Enter, Night before it, Wild Fell takes place in Ontario and takes a structurally interesting approach. The main narrative of Enter, Night ended after 340 pages and was followed by a 70 page coda, a translation of an old document which cleared up a lot of the backstory/history behind the vampire infestation of Parr's Landing. The coda can stand as a novella of it's own, and was a unique, fun way to wrap up the novel.

Wild Fell is a bit unorthodox as well, with the narrator not even getting to the "haunted house" until the majority of the book has passed. This doesn't reflect badly on the story whatsoever, and further cements the idea that Wild Fell is a ghost story as opposed to a typical haunted house story. Fraught with themes such as gender identity and exploration of memory and memory loss, Rowe's sophomore novel is a literary ghost story that can stand with the best of it's kind.

Rowe does a great job with his characters, and his narrator Jameson Browning is an easy man to sympathize with, as he's had his fair share of disappointments and tragedies throughout his life. From the beginning of Jameson's (or Jamie, as he is mostly referred to) narrative, it becomes clear that his problems start at a young age of childhood. Childhood always makes for a wonderful setting for horror, as it's a period in everyone's life in which exists a certain, special blend of magic, awe, and terror that dissipates as we grow into a different perspective. While the magic and awe seem to disappear, the terror and trauma can often bury itself deep, bleeding over into life later on, and the narrative is a perfect example of this, with Jamie forgetting many things which he remembers later on as he recounts his tale.

The author is just as on point with the pacing as he is with his narrator, and although the volume clocks in at a slimmer page count than his first novel, it doesn't slow down at all and instead picks up speed as it cannonballs to it's gloriously creepy conclusion with an ending many readers will not see coming.

Wild Fell is the novel I ended 2013 with, and one that I could hardly put down. It is, without a doubt, one of the strongest ghost novels I've had the pleasure of reading, and easily alternates traditional ghost story tropes with a take that's entirely fresh and new. This one should be high on everyone's to-read list.

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