Robert Jackson Bennett, . . Orbit, $19.99 (327pp) ISBN 978-0-316-05468-3
Set during the Great Depression and reading like a collaboration between Stephen King and John Steinbeck, this remarkably assured first novel relates a good man’s desperate travels through the ruins of the American heartland on the trail of his child’s murderer. As he tracks the eponymous fiend, Marcus Connelly discovers that he’s not the only person whose life the killer has ruined. The Dust Bowl refugees pursuing Mr. Shivers gradually realize that he embodies an elemental force of destruction, and they begin sacrificing their own humanity for the sake of vengeance. The everyday horrors of a deserted, drought-blighted countryside are interrupted by frightening dreams and fragments of disturbing superstitions as Bennett’s characters try to articulate what’s happening and imagine a way back home. Bennett makes dark fantasy feel like gritty realism, achieving a rare laconic eloquence that will captivate horror readers hungry for new voices.
Reviewed on: 12/14/2009