Author: Nicholas Wolff
Expected Date of Publication: June 28th, 2016
Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
When a rare mental disorder begins to consume his small-town neighbors, a young psychiatrist digs up the past for clues to the epidemic’s bone-chilling source in this brilliant supernatural horror debut, written in the bestselling tradition of Peter Straub.
Convinced that evil spirits have overtaken his daughter, a desperate father introduces her to Nat Thayer, a young psychiatrist in their sleepy blue-blooded Massachusetts college town. Thayer quickly diagnoses the girl with Cotard Delusion, an obscure condition sometimes described as “walking corpse syndrome.” But Thayer soon realizes his patient—and many of the local families—are actually being targeted by a malignant force resurrected from the town’s wicked history. Thayer must discover the source of the spreading plague…before there is no one left to save.
But where The Binding struggles is in the decision to juggle multiple storylines from several different character perspectives. By splitting its focus and devoting a select few chapters here and there to different characters, there was little development for a couple individuals whose story arcs were left so insubstantial and lacking in relevance that they may as well have not been included. If asked to name names, I would point out Ramona Best as one character whose POV could’ve been neatly excised without affecting the plot too much and would’ve allowed for a more concise and cohesive narrative.
It seems we’re actually meant to support his infatuation with a vulnerable young woman seeking professional help from him, but I found it so distasteful that it marred my enjoyment of the story from that point onward as Nat’s sole focus became protecting Becca as opposed to defeating the evil force targeting his town.
Aside from that, I found The Binding to be a worthwhile read and would recommend it to those interested in a genre-straddling supernatural crime thriller. I’d definitely read another novel by this author, just hopefully with fewer competing storylines and characters allowed to properly breathe and develop!
Rating: 3 out of 5 creeped-out kitties!
Author: William Holden
Expected Date of Publication: June 14th, 2016
Page Count: 282 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
In 1920, Phineas Nathanial Roberts fought back against the “Secret Court” of Harvard’s elite and their unjust purge of homosexual men. The members of the court, fearing his influence, attacked him and threw him off a bridge to look like a suicide. As Phineas lay in the river dying, he was given the chance of eternal life, a life that would allow him to seek out the men who had murdered him. He accepts the offer and becomes Nate, The Midnight Barke, a shadower ruling over the dark realm of his Netherworld. Now, over eighty years later, Nate has tracked down the last remaining descendants of the members of the Secret Court, and for one night will gather them together for a final confrontation of lust, desire, and revenge.
This novel really was not for me. I wasn’t a fan of the author’s choice of words and the way characters and events are described. Now I’m not ordinarily picky – I read books that are more like screenplays with sparse prose and more focus on dialogue/action, and I read high fantasy novels that relish in page after page of lengthy rambling elegantly wordy prose.
The problem I have here is too much focus on bodily functions – not the sex scenes (although there is an overabundance of those), but for eg. this is the way a character’s fear is described:
“A lump filled Thad’s throat as if his heart had somehow become lodged inside. He felt a liquid fart squeeze from his clenched ass.”
Obviously the former is figurative, not literal, it’s a familiar expression I’ve seen before in various forms. But the latter…is that another metaphor? Is it meant to be literal? Either way, it’s not an appealing turn of phrase, and the book abounds with similar phrases, there’s so many references to bowels churning and the like! I know this is horror, but I expected it to be torture or death that would make me feel queasy, not hearing about the workings of someone’s digestive system!
There’s other odd choices, like male characters being described as having ‘small erect tits‘. Peculiar descriptions like that have the effect of taking me out of the story because I’m too busy puzzling over that choice.
Another issue for me is the pacing. I’m past the first quarter of the book and nearing the half-way mark, but no real plot has emerged as yet. We’re being introduced to a new character’s viewpoint in practically every single chapter, but there’s no overall plot cohesion, no endgame in sight. 41% is enough investment for me – I should know where this is going by now and it was too tedious to continue after reaching this point.
Note that this seems to be a deliberate choice. William Holden explains in an interview that:
“The novel is non-linear; each chapter is from the viewpoint of a different character and how they see and understand the protagonist, Nate, the Midnight Barker.”
The cast so far are overwrought and melodramatic to a fault. Aside from wailing and moaning and other overreactions, there was this constantly tossed in:
“A tear of regret fell from Noah’s eye.”“A tear rolled down Andy’s face as he remembered the painful good-bye they’d shared on their last night together.”“A tear rolled down Noah’s cheek.”
The ‘single tear’ should be credited as a character in its own right. It failed as a means of inciting some emotion in me because it was more like a cheap shorthand manner of indicating this was supposed to be a poignant moment.
And they all completely fail to act like sensible rational human beings. One character flees his workplace in terror, nearly vacating his bowels along the way as he encounters a strange shadowed being that ominously stalks him throughout the hallways, but then laughs it off as an overactive imagination shortly afterward? Nobody with that much terror and evidence of something odd going on would just dismiss it that easily!
Another character is threatened by Nate making sinister references to taking his life, but he’s so overcome by his hormones that he goes along with the seduction til it’s too late! A third character knows it’s a bad idea to get involved with his student, but even though he’s spent years ignoring attractive young men in his class, he just can’t resist bedding this one. A fourth character is in a long-standing abusive relationship of ten years and thoroughly cowed by his partner, but when approached by a handsome stranger in public (where he’s been too afraid to drink anything but water because that’s how submissive he is to his partner’s demands), he allows the man to stroke and kiss him in front of everyone!
It’s not that I don’t believe people can be motivated by lust, but when all these grown adult men are making nonsensical decisions purely based on hormones, it’s very unrealistic. The most believable character is the schizophrenic in a mental institution because at least his erratic decision-making processes and lack of logical thinking make sense given his mental illness!
I’m normally a big fan of villains, but here, the villain is a walking, talking cliche:
“Stop your infernal whining,” Nate howled. “There is nothing I despise more than a weak pathetic man.”“Please stop your infernal whining…Keep quiet. You’re starting to irritate me.”“This is touching, but your romantic drivel is starting to make me nauseous.”
There wasn’t anyone that I found engaging or likable – even the villain failed to excite me, and the lack of plot made it difficult to progress. I really wanted to like this one, but unfortunately I couldn’t finish it.
No Rating (since this was a DNF)