Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Pines - Robert Dunbar

I am not all that familiar with the Jersey Devil legend... other legends have always taken the forefront in my research and reading. But I am aware of the Jersey Devil who haunts the Pine Barrens. Dunbar's novel "The Pines" takes the old tale and adds a new spin on it. The concept is interesting, engaging and filled with quite a few victims who end up all but inside out.

The Short Summary: We follow Athena, Steve, Doris, Matty, and just about everyone else who lives in a small town as people start dying in the woods. The main characters are the operators of the beat up ambulance and the police. Of course there are quite a few other locals... they bicker, fight, and eventually try to figure out what is killing all of these people in such violent ways.

So there is woods, a monster, inbred people, and lots of others for the monster to eat... why am I not raving about this book and demanding that you go buy it? The presentation. Much of this book is written in dialogue, which I never thought I would have an issue with... but we meet characters when they start speaking and they are very rarely described. Often many people will be talking for quite some time before they are named, then you have to go back and re-read the conversation to put it into context. Apart from what you pick up in the conversations and the characters' internal dialogue... very little of the story is explained. The characters all have very similar speech patterns, opinions, and attitudes which makes it even harder to pick out who is talking until they are named. Also they react in their speaking to things we aren't told are going on. It felt very much like I was back in theater class and reading a play with all of the blocking left out.

In the end, I really didn't find myself connecting with any of the characters, and with the frustration of always trying to figure out who was saying what and the constant switching back and forth from scene to scene as well as the large cast of people (though the total number wasn't all that high, the percentage of characters that added nothing to the forward progression of the story was very high), I had a difficult time convincing myself to read this one all the way to the end.

I know that the ending of this book was touted as brilliant, and it being "shocking" but to be honest... I wasn't all that shocked, I pretty much knew what was going on before the book was half way over. I know that there is a severe lack of horror material on the Jersey Devil... but I really didn't feel that as a horror book, this really stood up to some of the other options that are out there for readers to consume. I won't say that I hated it... but I just really didn't enjoy the style, which is sad because I thought the idea really had merit.

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